There is no doubt we are facing unsettling times, but all is not lost, especially not your fitness or diet gains. Today, we are discussing just that with leading sports dietician Renee McGregor, seeking her advice on how to stay sane and what to keep in your cupboards.
- What three tips would you give someone who may be struggling with a lack of routine around exercise right now?
We are living in very uncertain and challenging times, so my first piece of advice is to cut yourself some slack and do not be too hard on yourself. If you do not feel like you have the energy or motivation to train, don't. Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety, and this can contribute to fatigue. That said, we also know that keeping physically active can help to manage stress and also support a healthy immune system. So the answer isn't necessarily don't train, but to manage expectations. Aim to achieve 20-30 minutes of light to moderate training a day. This could include a walk, gentle bike ride or even a yoga routine.
- Realistically, how much is your body likely to change in 12 weeks due to being out of routine?
I think we all have to accept that we will probably lose a little bit of fitness and maybe a small amount of muscle tone if we cannot stick to our regular routines. However, it is also important to remember that, firstly we are not defined by either of these. Secondly, this is a transitional time, and our bodies are very capable of responding once we return to our 'normal'.
- How important is it for us not to get worked up about the current situation in regards to our health and body composition?
We are not defined by what we look like. Our body composition tells us nothing about the person we are so while it may feel like it provides you with a sense of identity, it is not a useful measure of worth. It is understandable that during times of uncertainty when life feels chaotic and messy, we look for some order and control. Some of us turn to food and exercise as it helps us to feel like we have a sense of control over a situation that is well and truly out of our control. Food and exercise just become the distraction, but the more we obsess over them, the more dysfunctional our relationship becomes, which then leads to both mental and physical health consequences.
- What three tips would you give someone looking to maintain a healthy diet right now?
While it is easy to say, the key is as it always has been, moderation. This is not the time to go on a strict diet or cut out food groups. This is probably a time actually to recreate happy associations with foods, for example, think about including childhood favourites to provide some comfort. For me that's meals like cheesy baked potatoes which remind me of Guy Fawkes night as a child, huddled around a bonfire, all wrapped up in woolly hats tucking into mouthfuls of warmth and comfort. I would balance this out now by serving with roasted vegetables or a big salad.
Remember the 80:20 rule; aim to eat well-balanced nutrient-dense meals 80% of the time, which leaves 20% to enjoy some of those foods that provide enjoyment, but maybe are not classically as nutrient-dense such as your favourite chocolate bar, or glass of red!
- What are your three quarantine cupboard essentials?
Oats, baked beans, oatcakes.
- How would you encourage people to ensure they are getting enough fruit and vegetables in?
Use frozen, dried or canned (not in syrup) fruit and veg. They are just as high in vitamins as they have been picked, and then immediately canned or frozen. They are non-perishable and so can be kept in the store cupboard with no worry that they are losing nutritional value. They are also very versatile, which is ideal during times such as these.