CN: Diet and Weight and Exercise / Coronavirus

I’m hearing from a lot of people, including many of my students who did personal history projects on how coronavirus has been affecting them, that they’re getting a lot less activity than they’re used to, and as a result are feeling physically and mentally not great.

Several of them noted gaining weight, and while I don’t want to put too much emphasis on weight specifically, I do think it’s worth thinking and talking about the mental health aspects of sudden body changes. It can be hard, in a time that’s already hard. And of course, that weight gain isn’t a gain in muscle mass — my students’ and friends’ bodies are getting generally less fit, less toned, less physically capable than they were six weeks ago. It’s stressful.

Kevin and I have both gained a few pounds since shelter-in-place, just because our days don’t have the kind of physical activity that used to be built into commuting to campus, running errands, etc. I used to hit 10 – 15K steps daily, without any additional effort, and according to my Fitbit, most days now are more like 2-4K. That’s a massive decrease in activity, and it’s not surprising that my body is reacting to it.

(We’ve generally been making the kids exercise twice a day, and I think it has a huge positive effect on their moods.)

The thing is, I think we’re in this for the long haul. I know that’s stressful and depressing to think about, and maybe some people will be able to go back to work soon (and of course, essential workers are already working).

But Kevin and I are in agreement that even if the state lifts restrictions, we’re going to try to physically distance our family for quite a while to come. Maybe three months, maybe six months, maybe a year, depending on how fast a vaccine is developed, and how much we flatten the curve. (Gah. I know. It sucks. I miss people.)

Distancing as much as possible just feels like the socially responsible thing to do, since we have work-from-home jobs at the moment, and possibly into the fall. My family has the luxury of being able to socially distance, and by doing so, we lower the rate of transmission. So to the extent that we can stand it, our family is going to be distancing probably quite a bit more than is required by the government. (This is also why I’m making a serious effort to get better at video conferencing, podcasting, etc., but that’s another post.)

The thing is, if we gain five pounds a month for the next year, we’re both going to be in serious trouble in a year. It’s not sustainable, so we’re committing to taking our physical fitness seriously.

I am no kind of fitness guru (hm, now I kind of want to interview fitness folks for the Serendib Home podcast, if that’s you, drop me a note?), but I do think about fitness and health a fair bit. And since I’m not teaching this summer, I have the leisure to be a little more organized about fitness.

So I’m doing a 100 Days of activity challenge in my fitness FB group (all are welcome), and I’ll be posting there, just logging it for accountability. Please feel free to join in; we’re starting today.

I’m going to try to vary my activity a LOT, in part so I can reflect possibilities that some of you may not have thought of, in part because I get bored. But I’m planning to have a few regular components:

– building up to being able to run for real (I’ll be using the “Zombies, Run!” app, starting again from the beginning, because it’s been so long)

– lifting weights (to build muscle, so I can do more, and because I find the tracking of it to be really motivating, watching the numbers creep up)

– possibly swimming, if I can get our Intex pool set up in the backyard and a weight belt to let me do laps in place

– gardening. 

I want to be clear that I’m supportive of all kinds of activity — this isn’t a competition. If increased activity for you means taking a ten-minute walk around the block, great. The goal is simply to add a little activity into your day. That’s it.

I will be taking some photos and measurements of myself for accountability, aiming for once / week on Wednesday, and will post those in the fitness group too. I know some people find that kind of thing triggering, which is why I’m segregating everything like that into the fitness group. Please don’t feel obliged to do anything of the sort yourself — it helps me, but it hurts some people. Do what makes you feel better, and please take care of yourself.

I suppose that’s the theme for this whole post — I’m trying to take better care of myself, and I hope this might help others do the same.

Stronger together.

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