Maintaining Healthy Habits During A Health Crisis

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Do you have trouble sticking to an exercise regimen or meal plan? Have you recently kicked an unhealthy habit like smoking or binge eating? We’re all at risk of sliding back into old habits while staying home to reduce the spread of coronavirus, but if you answered “yes” to either of those questions, it may be harder to avoid. As we temporarily shelter in place due to this worldwide pandemic, we’ve had to dramatically change our ways of life. Changes in routine are the perfect times to remind yourself why you wanted to kick those unhealthy habits in the first place and be mindful of the triggers that can cause relapse. Examining these things during unexpected circumstances will prepare you to continue building on the efforts you’ve made to improve your health.

Why Did You Want to Kick Your Unhealthy Habits?

For many people, the pandemic guidelines put their answer right in front of them: family. You may be motivated to become healthier because you want to be there for your family for as long as you can, to take care of them, to make sure they are safe, to spend as much quality time with them as possible. Some people are motivated by travel and exercise regularly because they want to stay mobile and explore the country or world into their senior years. Others may have even more practical motivations, such as eating healthy so they can save money by coming off of blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes medications. You may be driven by all of these or something completely different, but whatever your “why’s” are, write them down and keep them visible in your home as a reminder to help keep you motivated.

What Triggers Could Cause Relapse?

Triggers for bad behavior can be difficult to identify, but once you know yours, they can be neutralized with practical solutions. For example, studies have shown that getting rid of smoking reminders around the house (i.e. lighters, ashtrays, cigarettes, the smell of smoke, etc.) can help a smoker quit and stay tobacco free. So if you are a binge eater who is now stuck at home during the day, getting rid of your favorite snacks or keeping them out of sight/reach can help to reduce the chance of bingeing. Stress and boredom are also at an all time high right now, and it will only get worse as the crisis goes on. People often relapse back into addictive behaviors like overeating, smoking, skin picking, and others due to stress and boredom, so it’s important to be aware if this applies to you. Keeping yourself busy, abiding by a strict schedule, picking up hobbies (old and new), and exercising regularly can all help to reduce stress and keep your mind and body occupied while you are stuck at home.

Above all, don’t lose hope; and remember that we are all in this together. Even though you may not have your weight loss buddy physically there with you, you can check in with each other virtually to stay accountable. If you are having a tough time, reach out to a friend or family member for support, or join an online community. And get creative! Try out new rules or strategies to “trick” yourself into healthy behaviors--you never know what will work. We at HAWA are here to help, so if you want some fresh ideas, make an appointment with me and we can talk through it together.

As always, yours in health and fitness,

Shara Swager, BS, CSCS, IC, Fitness Specialist, HAWA Health, Inc.