Manners Matter: Staying Motivated during the Pandemic

Dear Mary Pat,

The new year is now upon us, and it’s once again time to make good on those New Year’s resolutions. I, like many others, typically make a goal for better health in the new year through dieting and exercise. It’s already hard enough to keep up with my goals, but we’re still dealing with the effects of COVID-19, which will definitely put a speed bump in any gym visits. How can I navigate my goals and stay motivated from home? Happy New Year!


Resolution Solution

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Dear Resolution Solution,

It’s a stressful time, so exercising and staying motivated can be a little more challenging, especially with COVID-19 restrictions in place. Here are my recommendations for taking better care of yourself this winter:

• Don’t beat yourself up over a few pounds (or 10) that you may have put on during the shutdown and holiday period. It happened, and you can move on from it. Every day is a new day.

• Get rid of the word “diet” from your vocabulary. Think in terms of making better choices to benefit your long-term health, longevity and mobility.  

• Set a small goal to start with, and don’t necessarily tie it to a scale. Maybe it’s fitting into a pair of pants that are a little tight or a shirt that might have a few buttons pop if you wear it for more than 20 seconds.  Say to yourself, “I’d like to wear those pants again by next month.” It’s probably a matter of five pounds. After you achieve that goal, set another small one.  

• Think of exercise as a stress reliever instead of something you have to do to lose weight. Exercise will also improve your mental clarity. If you’ve completely gotten out of your routine or hadn’t started one, begin with three or four days a week, and build up as you go. 

• Use the outdoors as a gym. You can walk, snowshoe, cross-country ski, ice skate, cycle or even make snow angels – whatever you enjoy.

• Take a look at how much alcohol you’re consuming, if any. There are a lot of empty calories there, and perhaps your consumption has gone up a little during the pandemic. Make sure you aren’t using alcohol as a coping mechanism.

• Food is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t deprive yourself of all treats – just be selective about which ones, the quantity and the frequency.

• Try to eat only when you’re hungry – not necessarily when the clock says it’s mealtime. Then take small bites and eat slowly and mindfully to get full enjoyment out of your food.

• Keep a food journal if you aren’t sure where your calories are coming from. Or keep a daily journal in which you write down the things you’re grateful for. You’ll find that a positive, appreciative attitude will be a big benefit to your health as well.

• Look into joining a virtual exercise class through the YMCA or other local fitness center, or find an online exercise program to stream at home.

• Get an accountability buddy. I’m sure some of your friends are feeling exactly as you are, so maybe go for a walk together at a safe distance. It will also be a great way to catch up while we’re all missing regular interactions with our friends.

Good luck,

Mary Pat