Lost your motivation to eat healthy and exercise during the pandemic? You are not alone

  • The lockdown is threatening to wreak havoc on our physical and mental health
  • Many people just don't feel motivated to follow a healthy diet or exercise regime
  • Luckily, there are small, achievable steps you can take to get your motivation back

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely disrupted our daily routines. With gyms remaining closed and the responsibility of working from home while tending to the home-schooling of our children, exercise and healthy eating may have taken a backseat.

We are now almost three months into lockdown, and unhealthy habits are starting to take their toll. It's reassuring to know that it’s normal to lose motivation – and even more reassuring to know that there are ways to get it back.

Why do we lose motivation?

Many things might have changed since we went into lockdown. You might have been used to going to the gym regularly, to be motivated by the camaraderie of your friends in your running club, or you might have had some free time while the children were at school.

All of a sudden, you are forced to exercise on your own – whether at home or going for a run without your clubmates. You might be feeling a bit lost, and the general stress of the pandemic might make you feel more fatigued than usual.

All the stress and anxiety associated with the pandemic can wreak havoc on our mental health. Suddenly, our brains are in survival mode and we just want to get through this nightmare without worrying too much about our waistlines.

Overeating and craving unhealthy foods can be triggered by stress and anxiety. In difficult situations, we want to soothe ourselves – which more often than not involves sugary snacks and carb-rich treats.

According to Jenna Hollenstein, a certified dietitian and nutrition therapist, none of us were geared up to deal with a pandemic, so we are all in survival mode.

“If our knee-jerk reaction to stress or difficulty involves any certain kinds of thoughts or behaviours around eating or body image, those are the things that are likely to be coming up right now,” she states.

If you are privileged enough to be working from home, you might also reach for more snacks than you normally would in your office setting. You may have lost your sense of structure and set meals may have fallen by the wayside.

Quick fixes

Healthy eating and exercising are not only about keeping unwanted kilos in check – it might also greatly benefit your mental and overall health, add structure and routine to your day, help you focus more on your work and alleviate the stress and anxiety of the current situation. And who knows, losing a few centimetres may even be an added bonus and make you look forward to the summer.

Here are some tips to get out of your rut:

1. Do it for your health, not for what you see in the mirror

During the current Covid-19 crisis, we should be celebrating our health by treating our bodies as well as we can. The more fruit and vegetables we eat, the stronger our immune system and overall health will be, not only to fight Covid-19, but also to avoid seasonal influenza and winter colds.

Change your attitude towards exercise and see it as an enjoyment rather than a punishment. If you despise doing crunches on a yoga mat in your lounge, find something else. Search for a free dance class online or go for a walk or run (with a mask, of course). As soon as you start enjoying exercise, you can think about additional goals such as improving your running speed or losing a couple of kilograms.

2.  Design your day to work for you.

If you are able to work from home but still struggle to get up early, switch your day around so that it works for you if you are able to schedule your own day. Many people prefer exercising over lunchtime or later in the day.

3. Prep and plan your meals

Plan your meals and shop ahead – not only will you be less tempted to order takeaways, but you will also eliminate unnecessary trips to the shops while we are still encouraged to stay at home.

If you are at a loss of how to start eating healthy, Health24’s archive of nutrition tips may be able to help you.

4. Be realistic about your goals

If you haven’t exercised for months, you are not going to be able to complete 10km in record time, nor will you lose 5kg in a week. In the winter weather, you will also not be craving only salad and water. Make small changes that are achievable for you. If you haven’t eaten fruits or vegetables in a while, start adding some greens back into your meals. Do only 10 minutes of exercise. Drink an extra glass of water. Swap your normal slab of milk chocolate for two blocks of decadent but healthy dark chocolate.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you do find yourself using food as a coping mechanism for stress. Food is comforting when everything else feels uncertain. But instead of indulging in loads of greasy chow, have fun experimenting with a recipe for a hearty curry or soup. And remember to go “offline” and destress.

5. Incorporate short bursts of exercise during your workday

When you work from home, it might feel like you can't get a moment to yourself. If you struggle to set aside a full hour for exercise, do short bursts of activity during the course of the day. Tend to the garden, do a bit of housecleaning or play with the pets in the garden, or dance around the lounge with your children. When you feel the endorphins kicking in, you will be inspired to carry on.

READ | How to eat for a robust immune system 

READ | 5 healthy vegetarian recipes if you are tired of the same old chicken dinners

READ | Coronavirus lockdown: Stay fit at home with these tips

Image credit: Retha Ferguson on Pexels

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