The year 2020 threw more than just a few curveballs (especially if you include the murder hornets). Unfortunately, the stressors of the pandemic have led many women to experience unhealthy results.
Dr. Alexis Peraino, MD, FACP, is not only a full time physician, but also a wife and mother of three. She has an extensive background in internal medicine, obesity management, exercise physiology and nutrition. Lately, Peraino has seen a rise in female patients experiencing long-term tolls on their health due to the pandemic. She notes that “At the beginning of the pandemic, it was OK to allow yourself to succumb to those Covid cravings (like that extra glass of wine or dessert). However, It is now time to reevaluate and reset your routine.”
If you are feeling less healthy now than you did a year ago, you are not alone. In this post, Peraino shares some of the more common themes she recognizes amongst patients, along with suggestions for getting back to healthy habits.
Increase in Weight
Several factors contribute to an increase in weight since the start of Covid-19. Being stuck at home often means snacking all day long, eating dessert after meals, and ordering takeout more frequently as a treat or reward. Plus, gyms have been closed, which makes working out more challenging.
If you have packed on the pounds this year, there are many ways to stop your bad habits and get back to a healthy weight. Peraino has seen several of her patients invest in at-home gym equipment, such as a Peloton or Mirror. Another option is to cook healthy balanced meals at home. Use to-go and grocery delivery services for added safety, and to eliminate the temptation of grabbing unhealthy snacks from the grocery store.
Don’t forget about fish. Peraino has seen a drop in her patients’ mercury levels. Although a positive side effect from COVID’s in-dining closures, you don’t want to eliminate it completely. She stresses that “it’s important to eat fish, as it contains anti-inflammatory Omega 3’s.”
Increase in Alcohol Consumption
“Before, my patients were drinking 1 – 2 glasses of wine per week, and now they are drinking 1-2 glasses per night,” says Peraino. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also issued warnings about increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
The only way to reduce alcohol consumption is to commit to drinking less every night. You can take a cold turkey method, or you can gradually decrease the amount you drink each night. If you drink three glasses of wine a night, cut back to two and then one until you are not drinking most nights of the week.
Drinking is habitual. Substitute alcohol with sparkling water (if you crave the fizz) or flavored herbal tea to continue the nighttime tradition of having a drink to unwind. Get your partner on board for that added support system.
Neurologists have a name for COVID-induced insomnia, or ‘Covid-somnia’, nicknamed ‘Coronasomnia’. There are plenty of reasons for your mind to stay awake at night. Stress from unemployment, feeling overwhelmed about your additional responsibilities, and being nervous about catching the virus are all common right now. Peraino is seeing patients with insomnia, as well as those who wake in the middle of the night unable to fall back to sleep.
One cause could be our over-reliance on screens to fall asleep. Lighting affects our sleep cycle. That’s why Peraino recommends shutting down devices for at least an hour prior to bedtime, and resisting the urge to check them in the middle of the night.
“I can prescribe medication as a sleep aid, but it’s a Band-Aid. It’s more important to address the root of the problem” says Dr. Peraino. The sleep aids she recommends include white noise and meditation to help calm your brain, so you can get the rest you need.
Stress and Anxiety
Work-life balance is all but gone during COVID. There is no way to “turn off,” and there are no boundaries when you work from home. On top of working full-time jobs, women are taking care of children who are home all day. This adds additional stressors, like extra cooking and cleaning, teaching, helping out with homework, and managing children’s stress levels.
It can all feel like too much.
Peraino advises that “It’s OK to feel and experience stress and anxiety under these circumstances.” She also notes that “Not everyone who has anxiety needs to be treated. But if you can’t work, sleep, eat, or complete your daily tasks and functions, then you need to consult a healthcare professional. It also doesn’t necessarily have to be just medication. It should be an all encompassing treatment plan.”
Peraino has developed a comprehensive approach to patient care, combining preventive care and evidence-based medicine to ensure a balanced lifestyle approach to overall health, fitness, and wellbeing. There are many options to live a healthy lifestyle besides prescriptions.
Get Back to Your Healthy Lifestyle
The pandemic won’t last forever, and neither will your health challenges. By making minor adjustments to your life, such as cooking healthy meals at home, cutting back on alcohol consumption, and turning off your phone an hour before bedtime, you can start to feel more like your “pre-pandemic” self again.
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