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Changing Unhealthy Habits: A Silver Lining of COVID-19
Have you ever heard the old adage “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?” The spring of 2020 and the arrival of social distancing has brought some sour changes to all of us. It’s important to understand that change affects everyone, and it is human nature to find change difficult. Humans are creatures of habit and much of what we do daily—from brushing our teeth to driving to work—happens without deep thought. When a change in routine occurs, it makes our brains work harder to adapt and requires focus. So much so, that changing old habits can be taxing on your mind and the desired change might be abandoned before the habit sticks.
It’s easy to give up, but it’s also possible to use this time of change as a springboard and form new habits. Ready to swap out unhealthy habits for better ones? Let’s get started.
Eating at Home
Restaurant meals can be high in salt, sugar and fat. There are also more temptations to splurge with sugary desserts and high sodium condiments. On average people who cook at home, rather than eating out, consume 205 fewer calories per meal and tend to have healthier overall diets. Finding a healthy, well-balanced meal at a restaurant is still possible. Aim for a special occasion when you support your favorite healthy places.
This is a great time to break the habit of mindlessly grazing the store aisles for unnecessary, impulsive, expensive items. To maximize your time at the grocery store, embrace meal planning and keep a running grocery list. Now is a good time to go through old cookbooks and create a weekly or monthly meal plan. Consider any special nutrition needs for yourself and your family, then note which ingredients you already have on hand. Stock your pantry and freezer with the five food groups, as well as raw and unprocessed whole foods. An extra benefit is that these items may cost less than buying precooked and ready-to-eat products.
More Time to Exercise
Now is a good time to go through your abandoned exercise equipment and clean out some old workout DVDs. Maybe you will rediscover your love of aerobic kickboxing or Zumba. Maybe you’re finding you have more time to take advantage of the surge of new YouTube exercise videos and free training available from Instagram influencers.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program, especially if you have been sedentary.
A potential benefit of staying close to home is escaping from the frantic pace of life for a while. Adapting to a slower pace might mean more time for yourself (a.k.a. me time) and for your family. To help form a new habit, try writing out a daily to do list so you get the most out of your day. Personal goals might include learning new skills on the latest technology so you can connect with loved ones, or decreasing screen time altogether with a chance to enjoy a good book or creative home project.
Maybe you’re experimenting with some new recipes from DaVita.com. Make sure to check out one of my favorites—making “lemonade from lemons.”
Visit DaVita.com and explore these diet and nutrition resources:
- DaVita Kidney-Friendly recipes
- Today’s Kidney Diet cookbooks
- Diet and Nutrition articles
- Kidney Smart® Virtual Classes
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.