By Amy Barnes
Before lockdown, my family (two kids, two dogs and one husband) were always on-the-go with busy school and work schedules. We honestly ate unhealthy meals, at fast food and chain restaurants, in the car and not at home together. After-school activities often kept us out until 10:00 PM meaning we ate dinner at 4:00 PM or before bed. We all felt sluggish and drug our way through the busy weeks. I had my metabolism checked a few years ago and it had significantly slowed which translated into not losing weight. To keep up, I joked I needed a constant caffeine stream or an intravenous Coca Cola drip.
That all changed when we went into quarantine. Suddenly, there were no fast food and chain restaurants but it didn’t matter because there was also no school, no activities, no errands to run and no commuting. We ate at home and baked and walked the dogs at 4:00 PM instead of going to orchestra or errands. I didn’t set out to lose weight and assumed I would gain the Quarantine-15 with my non-existent metabolism.
About two months in, I stepped on the scale because even my yoga pants felt loose. The number surprised me. I had lost weight but that wasn’t the only difference. My fingernails were so long and strong, they clicked when I typed. My graying hair had grown faster and stronger and my skin was clear. My swollen ankles had visible bones showing and no swelling for the first time in years. I was puzzled. Why did I feel healthier? I started looking at our behaviors in those 60 days and found five habit changes.
What We’ve Done Differently
Leave it to Quarantine
Most days, we’ve sat down together to eat. While I joke about being a 24/7 lunch lady, I know exactly what I’m serving. I don’t have an oil fryer so everything is baked or grilled. Everyone is seasoning to their tastes so we aren’t consuming as much salt (good-bye swollen ankles!) Best of all, we’ve had more time together in a quiet setting before our son leaves for college. That around-the-table meal time has gained us family time too.
Mail It To Me: Not In Public or Publix
In the first two months I didn’t go to the grocery store and wasn’t able to get a delivery time, so I got creative. While big box stores were great options, I ordered meat from Omaha Steaks, cheese from Wisconsin, deli meat from a Texas smokehouse, rolls from Hawaii and produce directly from farms. Our wheel of cheese from Swiss Colony was definitely a conversation starter.
Warehouse stores were another option for fast shipping of basics but I also discovered large office supply stores sell groceries. I was able to order perishable items and snacks with my printer cartridges. To add to our meal options, I ordered through websites like iherb, online ethnic markets and subscription sites like Hungryroot that shipped produce, spices and grains. I was also unintentionally careful on portion sizes because I was dependent on shipping times. Instead of cooking up an entire bag of french fries, I made enough for one meal which meant saving money too. While it took a little more effort and the porch was often filled with refrigerated boxes, the costs were very similar to our usual grocery trips.
Just Add Water
Not being able to run to the store meant there was no soda in the house; companies just weren’t shipping soda probably because it would leak or explode in the mail. That didn’t mean we weren’t thirsty. It meant we drank healthier options (juice, water, infused drinks) because those could be delivered in the mail or dispensed from the refrigerator.
Quarantine equals a pinata hanging from the chandelier? When we started getting bored with our always-at-home meals, my daughter showed me images of her friends having themed meals. I made it happen for us too. Exploring cookbooks, serving noodles from India and piri piri seasoned chicken added new flavors. From a Taco Tuesday pinata and maracas to Mother’s Day tea trays, themed dinners gained us fun.
Walk the Dog or The Dinosaur
The 4:00 hour that was for commuting became more time to be active. We increased our exercising with dog walks, exercise and Zoom Tae Kwon Do classes. With the added spare time, we’ve also taken on home projects that required ladder climbing and strenuous DIY movements.
Wrapping it Up
In the five months since quarantine began, I’ve officially lost fifteen pounds but that’s not the end of the story. My family loves the at-home Mom cafe and wants it to continue once this ends. I’ve ordered lilac nail polish and have pretty, strong toenails. We also haven’t deprived ourselves. Once I could get grocery delivery time slots, I ordered chocolate bars, slice-and-bake cookies, bacon, watermelon and pudding, We found we ate even our favorite snacks in moderation — outside of a tough week where I ordered and ate too many snack-size Slim Jims and single-serve bags of Cheetos.
The ironically funny side of a not-funny time came when I tried to salvage our vacation-less summer with a “treat”. We had to take our dogs to the vet and stopped to get McDonald’s fries through curbside service. For weeks, we’d fantasized about hot and salty fast food French fries. We took them home, moved the fries from package to plates, washed our hands and dug into what we thought we wanted (not my at-home baked cookie sheet fries). We ate fries and promptly felt icky. Our systems seemed shocked by the fat and salt content and we all decided: no more fast food. That isn’t to say we don’t indulge, but we’re eating healthier with no plans to go back. The change in habits and my weight loss weren’t planned, but have had a silver lining; just not a silver fast food package one. I may have lost fifteen pounds but we gained far more as a family: perspective, time together and healthier eating habits.
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