"Listen to your Body:" The Key to Post-Quarantine Health

As restrictions around COVID-19 ease, nutrition and fitness pave the path to better long-term health.

Many people around the world have been doing a lot of listening over the past months. Listening to doctors, public health officials, government leaders, neighbors, friends and more. We all want to know more about the best methods to keep ourselves and communities as safe as possible from the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

But as some restrictions begin to ease in some places and our lives start adjusting to the "new normal" phase of this pandemic, some habits acquired while cocooned in our homes may not be optimal for our long-term health and fitness.

So, who do we listen to now to get back on the right path for our long-term wellness? According to registered dietitian Pamela Nisevich Bede from our Nutrition business, you need to listen to you.

"Reflect on what you’ve been doing in quarantine," Bede said. "If you took time off from your regular healthy routine, it will take time to get yourself to where you want to be, to pivot toward building your best self. To get to where you want to be, you need to listen to your body."

Focus on Nutrition

We all know the maxim that we are what we eat and that phrase can sound pretty ominous when we realize how eating habits may have changed in lockdown.

"People are used to being at their jobs all day, have pretty well-established schedules with regular meals at regular hours and limited snacking. They are not regularly passing by a kitchen that has all their favorite foods immediately available," Bede said.

"You don't have to be neurotic, but you should try to think about whether your food choices are working for — or against — you. Think holistically about nutrition. Replace the empty-calorie snacks that you know aren't great for you with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Try to include high quality protein with all your meals as it supports muscle and helps you feel fuller longer. To support your hard working immune system, add in foods rich in antioxidants, Vitamins A and D, as well as iron and zinc.

"If you have gained weight over these months, realize you won’t lose that weight immediately. It takes time to put it on and time to take it off. You needn't graze all day nor allow yourself to get ravenous. That's when we overeat and make poor food choices. Instead, listen to your body when it tells you it is time to eat and stop eating when you are full."

Focus on Hydration

An often overlooked part of good nutrition is hydration. "Proper hydration is key to supporting energy levels as well as maintaining mucous membranes, which are our first line of defense against viruses," Bede said.

"You should be sipping liquids throughout the day to maintain your proper hydration levels. That could include low/no calorie drinks, water with lemon, tea or an electrolyte beverage like Pedialyte. Listen to your thirst sensors and when your body tells you to drink, drink."

Focus on Fitness

If you haven't been able to maintain your usual fitness regimen during lockdown, don’t be discouraged.

Also, don't be overly eager to return to your old levels right away.

"Aim to work back to where you were before your schedule was interrupted but don't try to do it all at once," Bede said. "Start off slowly to help avoid injury. There is a big difference between re-establishing frequency as opposed to the intensity of your routine.

"If you were exercising 3 days per week before, you can return to that schedule but do so with less strenuous work outs until your body tells you it is ready to advance. Also, don’t leave your exercise regimen to chance. Certainly, listen to your body while exercising but if you hear a voice that says, 'I don't feel like doing anything today,' that is probably not your healthy body speaking. Make a commitment to yourself on a schedule and stick to it. It is the best path to a regimen that will establish or return those healthy habits."

We may still be a ways away from the "normal" lives we were used to earlier in the year, but we can get closer every day to being our best selves by following these simple suggestions.

So while you continue to listen to experts explaining how best to stay safe, make sure you are also listening to your body telling you how best to eat, drink, and exercise.