I grew up in North Dakota and Minnesota back when they still got lots of snow!
Snow days were a common occurrence every winter and, for the most part, I remember them as fun! They were an opportunity to have leisurely mornings with hot chocolate with whipped cream, maybe some pancakes and then bundle up and play outside all morning. Then we’d tumble inside and have grilled cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup. Yum!
We might play some board games and snack on cookies and more hot chocolate before heading back out into the snow until dinner of more comfort food!
So, this sounds kind of fun for a day…or maybe even 2 but as we head into our 5th week of sheltering in place, a continued diet of “snow day” food could really cause havoc…not just for our waistlines but also for our overall health.
If you’re working from home, it might seem easy to pacify yourself and your kids with snacky type foods and what I like to call “the birthday party diet”. Pizza, fast food, chips, cookies…you get the picture, right?
Trust me, in the end, you’re not doing anyone a favor by continuing to allow your family to indulge in this type of eating!
Short term effects might include gastro-intestinal distress from eating dairy, gluten, sugar and processed foods. You will probably also experience mood and energy swings resulting from spikes in blood sugar which then result in crashes…that blah feeling you often get after a high carbohydrate meal. Your skin will probably quickly reflect this quality of eating and if you have teens, theirs will, too which will only add to a negative mood swing.
Long term effects will probably include weight gain, changes in cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, immune function and in general…an overall sh*#ty health response. We certainly don’t want to face the repercussions of people going back to “life as normal” with their immune systems in worse shape than before the shelter in place order.
The documentary “Supersize Me” follows a man’s month-long experiment with eating nothing but food from McDonald’s. We watch as his weight balloons, his energy levels plummet and his doctor becomes alarmed as every measure of his health deteriorates just from 30 days of eating crap! (this might be a good movie for you and your family to watch during the quarantine, it is very entertaining, in spite of the horror of it all…).
So how do we cope with being cooped up? Some of us are bored with little to do and eating seems like an escape valve. Others of us are working harder than we ever have AND trying to manage kids at home at the same time…convenience foods seem like the easy way out and a way to add FUN to our otherwise crazy days.
Some of us still have plenty of money, so ordering take out from our favorite restaurants seems like a way to support them AND have some creature comforts while others of us are faced with a drastic loss of wages and the dollar menu at a fast food joint seems like something we can afford.
Some of my friends who also work in wellness are suggesting that we take this time to get healthier than you’ve ever been before! Take time to go out and move your body, take up meditation or yoga, take a complete break from gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods etc…
If that calls to you, we actually have some support materials we can give you.
But if you’re thinking “That sounds terrible!” I do have some suggestions that can be a happy medium: lean into some healthier habits while not completely abstaining from those “crutches” that we might not be ready to give up…especially while having to stay home!
First: Get a plan! If you’re on your own, choose the day that you’re going to get set up for the week. If you’re with your family or roommates, this can be a fun community activity and you might even be able to work it into a homeschooling lesson for your kids
This plan should include what you’re going to have for meals including when and how you will make food or get take out, what kind of exercise you’re going to do and when, when does everyone get some alone time, if you’re living with others and when and how do you get some connection with others, if you’re on your own?
Second: Do your prep! If your plan includes making food (which it really should…) do you have the ingredients? How much do you need to make to get a couple of meals out of it or to freeze for later? If you’re looking for some ideas, you might want to check out some episodes of “Cook With Jake and Joy”
It’s a good idea to take one day per week for some prep for the week: make a pot of rice, cut up durable veggies for stir fry or salads, make a pot beans and/or soup, bake some potatoes. Get your whole household involved and make it a party!
One thing that certainly makes meal prep for our family easier and cheaper, is growing our own produce in our vertical aeroponic gardening system. We have been growing our veggies (and some fruits) this way for almost 8 years now and not only does it save us about $1200/year, but it’s fun and what we grow is so much more delicious, fresh and safe than anything we could buy out in the world.
Third: Be easy about it! To Jake and me, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just start doing the best you can. I like to try to start the day out well with our famous, life changing muesli (you can get the recipe from our cookbook) with some berries and coconut milk yogurt but today, my husband really wanted pancakes SO…we had some made with gluten free flour, added chopped walnuts for added nutrition and topped them with just a touch of maple syrup and loads of berries. This is an example of using something not so healthful as a delivery system for something that is!
You can do this with pizzas, sandwiches, even ice cream! Figure out a way to put a health spin on whatever you’re putting in your mouth…and when you don’t?
I’m having to do a lot of forgiving myself around exercise. While I’m getting in at least a walk a day, it’s certainly different than how I’m used to working out. On the days that I only get a walk in, I just have to let it go.
We won’t be under lockdown forever. This “snow day” will end. Let’s make sure we don’t kill ourselves with bad habits in the meantime and let’s make sure we can still fit into our pants when it’s all over!