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Being cooped up in the house can be challenging when it comes to staying healthy and fit. Staying home leaves more time to start new routines, but it’s just as easy to slip back into bad habits. How can we keep a healthy quarantine routine?

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Just because we’re staying safe at home, doesn’t mean we can’t stay healthy. Read up on recommendations on how to keep a healthy body and mind. #tools2thrive

Samantha Mineroff
Samantha Mineroff

We turned to Mel Naghski, Manger of Product Marketing, for advice. Mel is certified through the Nutrition Coaching Institute and has coached over 100 clients in nutrition.

Were you always passionate about nutrition? What got you to pursue it as more than just a hobby

Always. I went on my first diet at seven years old. Now that I have a seven-year-old daughter, I really can’t believe it when I say that, but it’s true. I’ve always been extremely driven, but that wasn’t normal. I had a terrible relationship with food that continued even after I had kids. I had an amazing coach and friend who changed my life five years ago and vastly improved my relationship with food.

That’s what led to me pursuing it as more than a hobby. That friend I mentioned used me as his “guinea pig” when he first got into coaching and he remains my best friend. He’s now a nationally recognized nutrition coach and speaker now who runs his own business. He was hard on me when I wanted instant results. He never accepted my pushback. I learned that this is a lifelong endeavor and it’s not about aesthetics – it’s about health (although there is nothing wrong with aesthetic goals).

The year I started working with him I was constantly sick. I learned that chronic dieting and under eating was a huge component of why I always felt sick and exhausted. My coach slowly increased my calories. I lost weight in the process, became stronger, and above all else, have barely been sick since that time five years ago.

I think women especially think it’s okay to feel awful all the time and sometimes society reinforces that idea—low energy, poor sleep. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than showing others that they can feel good again. Having a family and a job is not a death sentence. Mindset, sleep, and good nutrition can be life-altering.

That’s what I’m passionate about—helping people to improve their mindset about food. Helping them understand that proper nutrition can be a part of anyone’s life, no matter how busy you are. It’s much simpler than what the diet industry would have us all believing. I love sharing different strategies with my clients, helping them to feel great while working toward their goals.

This is a hard time for many individuals and families because their routine and schedule are thrown off. It’s hard to find time to cook or exercise. What do you suggest we do to help establish a healthy eating and workout routine that meets current social distancing guidelines?

We’re in unprecedented times—we all know that.

Rule #1 is grace. There will always be times where life throws you a curveball, and this is an extreme case. We all need to allow time to transition.

For example, if you were eating healthy and getting to the gym four days a week and that came to a screeching halt…well, it came to a halt. Building sustainable habits is something I work on all the time with clients.

If you already established habits around nutrition and exercise, now is the time to pivot a little bit and allow yourself the room to figure out how to sustain those habits, even when they look different. We need a couple of weeks to adjust to a new normal—it won’t happen overnight. What do meals look like now? What can I do to stay active? It will look different, and that’s okay!

Accept that life is a constant wave of seasons and this is a new season. Habits are what sustain us through those seasons. If eating certain foods and exercising certain ways were your constant, it will feel stranger to let them go, rather than adjusting them for our current situation.

You haven’t stopped brushing your teeth during the pandemic, right? You may wait until after breakfast…so it looks different. But the habit is still there. The same applies to nutrition and exercise. If you haven’t established habits—now is a great time to build them! We now have more time than normal to cook a healthy breakfast or take a long walk.

The key is to build habits that you can stick with when life returns to normal. From a very tactical perspective I recommend:

  • Focus on the “big rocks” and do not overcomplicate them. You need 80% good-quality whole foods, SLEEP, and movement
  • Aim for 4-6 servings of veggies every day
  • Drink 3-4L of water a day (don’t be afraid to flavor it with something like Top Notch Hydrate or Boost by Built Bar)
  • Aim for a lean protein at least 3x/day – turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, egg whites, etc.
  • Check out at-home workouts posted by any number of local gyms
  • Take a long walk
  • Try out a meal delivery service like Icon Meals
  • Make new foods that are quick and easy for weeknight meals
  • Aim for consistency, not perfection
    • Getting aggressive with your goals usually leads to throwing in the towel after you ate one Oreo. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with ANY food. Eat 80-85% good quality whole foods and 15-20% of whatever you want. If you get off track, get back to it the next day. That’s the key. Don’t quit after a bad day. Don’t even consider it a bad day!
  • Hire a coach
    • There’s too much information out there on diet and exercise and it’s overwhelming. Invest in yourself and lean on the guidance of someone who can take the guesswork out of the equation. When looking for a coach, avoid anyone who gives you a template. You are an individual and your nutrition and exercise plan should reflect that.

How important is it to stay active and eat healthy during a time like this, when sometimes those are the last things we want to be doing?

I always tell people to let nutrition and exercise be your constants. Let them be the thing that anchors you and that you control when everything else in life feels uncontrollable.

We all have a need to wrap our arms around something right now. Eating healthfully and exercising can be that thing. Still, allow yourself the flexibility to have those constants look different. Healthy food may mean ordering a big salad with grilled chicken from your local pizza place or ordering pre-made meals. Exercise may look like a long walk. That’s fine – just make them your consistent normal. It’s important for your mindset more than anything.

It’s hard to stay locked inside and not want to constantly snack on our favorite sweets and treats. How do you suggest we establish healthy eating habits?

This is one of my favorite questions! I could go on and on, but my favorite go-to strategy is to make sure you have your favorite snacks in the house.

I love chocolate. My counter and cabinets are filled with bite sized things that I can eat instead of diving head-first into my kids’ snacks. The solution is to avoid depriving yourself. Make sure to grab the snacks you crave at the store each week. Incorporate them smartly into your daily routine. I promise you that if you try to deprive yourself of any treats, inevitably you will cave. Willpower isn’t an indefinite resource.

What resources do you recommend turning to when looking for a workout?

Any local gym. Most global gyms and boutique gyms now have Facebook groups who release at-home workouts. Get your kids involved if they are old enough. The most important thing is truly just movement—get out for a walk!

What are your go-to healthy meals?

I base my meals around a lean protein. I always have microwavable veggies on-hand. I add 1.5-2 servings of veggies to each meal and a quality source of carbs like oats, English muffins, wraps, potatoes, or rice. I love cereal, cottage cheese, and yogurt….and rice cakes! They are an amazing vehicle for something sweet OR savory.

Every night for dinner, I have a big salad with protein. I’d recommend that most people do at least one large salad full of veggies every day. Right now, it’s critical for our immune systems to be rock solid. Eat your greens!

Many ingredients are out of stock or are in short supply. What are healthy meals and snacks people can make that are easily available?

I’ll be honest—food is not in short supply.

Protein is bit tight but explore stores in your area that you may not go to often. I’m finding that my smaller, local stores are just fine for all the food I need. As a last resort, meal prep companies seem to be doing fine. We do Butcher Box, so our freezer is stocked with lots of protein.

For those struggling already with healthy eating, this can be a triggering time. We can’t help but sit and scroll through stressful news. How do you suggest we combat stress eating and make sure we eat and stay active enough?

First, take a deep breath and understand that we are all in this together. I hear from so many clients that they are struggling.

Generally speaking, everyone is dealing with stress and uncertainty. Everything that I said above applies here. Allow yourself the time to transition to this temporary normal. Make good nutrition choices and exercise your anchors during this time—even though they will look different. Strive for consistency, not perfection. Do not deprive yourself—strategically include your favorite snacks every day.

I think another important thing to practice is stress balance. We hear so much about the evils of stress these days. Stress is a normal part of life and humans are equipped to manage it. The key is to try to balance stress inputs with stress outputs. Take a walk, meditate, cuddle with your dog, play outside with your kids between calls, read each night, listen to an audiobook or a podcast. Do a few things each day to destress.

The same rule of consistency and not perfection applies here, too. I know you don’t always have time to read or meditate. Establish a small and sustainable goal and build from there (I highly recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear). If you need support and accountability, which we all do, use some of that money you’d normally be spending going out to dinner on a qualified nutrition coach. Having someone to lean on during times like these can be immensely helpful.

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