As the coronavirus continues to escalate, we have all learned a new lexicon – social distancing, pandemic pantry, community spread, flatten the curve and increasingly, shelter in place.
With this new normal of “everything’s cancelled,” many of us are also facing a new situation: working from home. That’s certainly true for me. My home office is my new office.
If you find yourself working from home for the first time, it brings with it all sorts of adjustments – like how to be productive if the house is full of kids because schools are closed.
This sudden change in routine may also be challenging for your self-care. Your gym workouts are likely disrupted, and perhaps you’re tempted to dig into your quarantine stockpile and finish it on the first few days. Or maybe all that stress baking has you eating cupcakes for breakfast and digging into your stash of chocolate chips in the afternoon.
Working from home doesn’t need to derail your good intentions.
Here are some steps you can take to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle when working from home:
- Create a routine.
- Avoid the kitchen for your workspace.
- Make time for movement.
- Start your day off right.
- Plan your snacks.
- Eat a veggie-filled lunch.
- Get in touch with your hunger.
- Manage alcohol consumption.
- Get adequate sleep.
Create a Routine
The most difficult part of working from home when it comes to eating is the lack of structure, says Lisa Young, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York City and author of “Finally Full, Finally Slim.” She encourages setting up a structure for the day: Plan when, what and how much you’re going to eat, and try to stick to it as best as possible.
Libby Mills, a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, agrees. She says working from home can seem like every day is a weekend, when there’s typically less structure to your day.
“Weekends can mean skipping meals, snacking throughout the day and overindulging at dinner,” Mills says. “Don’t let your Monday through Friday become like a weekend.”
A set schedule will help tune out the cues that are part of weekend days, so you can be productive and not find yourself noshing all day and skipping physical activity, she says.
Avoid the Kitchen for Your Workspace
Don’t set up your laptop on the kitchen table. Find another spot to work, so you’re not constantly tempted to snack. If you don’t have a home office, find a quiet area away from the fridge to do your work. Only visit the kitchen when you plan to sit down and have a meal or snack – never eat standing up, typing or watching TV. Multi-tasking when eating means you’ll likely eat more, yet enjoy it less.
Make Time for Movement
Vandana Sheth, a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends taking a break each day to walk in your neighborhood, work out with equipment at home, put on some music and have a dance party with your kids or try an online yoga or fitness class.
Try not sitting longer than 60 minutes at one time, suggests Jerlyn Jones, an RDN in Atlanta and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Set a timer and get up, walk around for 5 minutes and stretch. Stand while talking on the phone, and take your dog for a walk during a break.”
Start Your Day off Right
Your morning routine has changed, but don’t neglect a nutritious, filling breakfast in the morning. Jones recommends overnight oats – a no-cook method of making oatmeal the night before. Additional a.m. ideas include fruit and vegetable smoothies, a breakfast burrito with eggs, spinach, tomatoes and cheese wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla or a whole-grain English muffin topped with peanut butter.
Plan Your Snacks
Just like the pitfalls of the candy dish at your office, avoid creating similar temptations at home. Jones recommends keeping a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter or in clear containers in the refrigerator – making the healthy choice an easy choice. She suggests having additional snacks ready in the fridge, such as pre-cut vegetables like carrots, celery and bell peppers with hummus and mozzarella cheese sticks.
Young suggests pre-portioning snacks in advance. It’s really easy to eat an entire jar of nuts mindlessly, she says. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup to gauge a 1-ounce serving and adding to small plastic bags will help with portion control.
Eat a Veggie-Filled Lunch
“When it comes to lunches, there are so many benefits to being at home,” says Regan Jones, a Georgia-based registered dietitian nutritionist, founding editor of Healthy Aperture.com and podcaster at This Unmillennial Life. “Most notably, there’s time to do that veggie prep you’re always too busy to do when you’re rushing out the door. I’ve recently started making plant bowls for lunch daily, and they require less time than you may think.”
One of her favorite plant bowls from pantry staples is a combination of brown rice, black beans seasoned with cumin and chili powder, canned corn, salsa and canned diced tomatoes.
“Ideally, I’d add in some fresh greens if I have them on hand and maybe some roasted veggies left over from dinner. The point is all of these items are quick, easy and hopefully something you stocked up on before you started working from home.”
Get in Touch with Your Hunger
Recognize when you are truly hungry and not just bored, lonely, stressed or overwhelmed, suggests Dr. Michelle May, founder of www.AmIHungry.com.
“If you are hungry, plan to take a break to make a snack or meal. Sit at a table away from your desk and computer and eat mindfully. You’ll enjoy the food more and find it easier to notice when you’ve had enough.”
If you’re not hungry yet, May suggests drinking a glass of water, taking a short break, changing tasks, making a phone call, prioritizing your to-do list or connecting with your co-workers virtually.
Manage Alcohol Consumption
One recent tweet I happened to see was a woman giving advice to those working from home: Wait until you change out of your day pajamas to your nighttime pajamas before you start mixing drinks. A funny quip of a realistic concern.
Feeling isolated at home and stressed over these uncertain times could lead to excess drinking. “Do not drown your sorrows in booze,” says Leslie Bonci, a Pittsburgh-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Active Eating. “Only enjoy a glass of wine or beer with meals, rather than alone.”
Get Adequate Sleep
Too often, staying at home allows us to blow-off work during the day pushing our screen-time into the night, Mills says. Then we stay up later to unwind, which can create the opportunity for extra calories from late-night snacking.
“Ironically, working from home might lead to getting even less sleep than when we have to go to bed and get up to go to work,” she said. “Not getting enough sleep can be a trigger for overeating or craving quick energy from sweets the next day as we struggle to stay focused, productive and motivated. Getting enough sleep is important for managing weight.”
To thrive in this time of hunkering down at home, May recommends creating a strong self-care buffer zone with regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and staying connected to your family, friends and co-workers virtually.