Comfort Food and Consequences

These past months of social isolation have affected us all in a variety of ways, with health and fitness not the least among them. Self soothing with comfort food seemed like a good idea at the time, but if you kept it up for as long as I did, you already know where this post is going.

When we began Covid isolation back in March, I was already about 7 pounds beyond my ideal weight, and had been for a few years. Somewhere along the way I got used to the number on the scale and considered it to be at the top of the range for ‘acceptable’ weight.

At the beginning of Covid, we were having glorious weather in South Florida and being outside happened naturally. Most days were filled with physical activity, and I was not worried about the additional ‘comfort calories’ consumed during those first couple of months.

They were easily offset by physical activity and I maintained my weight. Go me!

As the heat and humidity of summer set in, adapting my fitness routine to indoor activities became a challenge. I told myself that all was well, but my body had other ideas. It is basic common sense that a reduction in exercise and continued consumption of comfort calories spell trouble. Time for action.

The Plan

The plan was straight-forward – stop eating everything you want, whenever you want it! The change began with a modest diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, no alcohol and no sugar. Those last two were the hardest! Exercise consisted of walking two miles on the treadmill, three times per week and water aerobics on alternate days.

After just two weeks of ‘dieting’ (apx. 1200 calories per day) I saw results, and slacked off the exercise thinking it wasn’t necessary to the goal of loosing a few pounds and besides, it was making me feel tired. I lost 12 pounds in six weeks, which sounds like a victory, but it wasn’t. A noticeable decrease in muscle mass was evident along with the weight loss.

What I Did Wrong

Thirty years ago, a low calorie diet and light to moderate exercise would have been sufficient to achieve my 10 pound goal, but at 65, there is so much more to consider. Our bodies need resistance training at any age, but especially over 50. Most restricted calorie diet plans encourage weight training at least 3 – 5 times per week. The benefits of resistance training include increased metabolism and muscle retention – both which aide a healthy weight loss.

Beyond metabolism and weight loss, there are a lot of health reasons to include resistance training in your routine. The excerpt below mentions many of them and if you would like to read the entire article, click on source below the quote.

“If your workout doesn’t include strength training, you’re missing out. Strength training helps ward off age-related muscle loss, keep your bones strong, promote mobility, prevent falls, and combat depression and cognitive decline.”

source

My approach for the past two weeks has been to slightly increase my calorie intake (energy in) and significantly increase my workout routine (energy out). I will continue adding back good calories (and maybe a few bad ones) until I find a combination that achieves my long-term goals.

Daily Workout

  • 30 minutes biking (outside)
  • 30 minutes inclined walking (treadmill)
  • 10 – 20 minutes rowing machine
  • 10 minutes free weights, weight bands, or yoga poses

Getting a full-body workout in one to two hours per day, without subjecting myself to possible dehydration, is important, given my history. Adding some calories back to my diet have helped to increase my energy level and I already feel stronger due to the combination of cardio and resistance training. Hopefully, it will be just the ticket to get me through these last few hot summer weeks.

I feel good about the weight loss and I like my ‘new number.’ But, most importantly, I am proud of myself for admitting that ‘ageing’ was just a convenient excuse for accepting a mindset without challenge. Age is not a free pass, it’s a wake-up call.

How about you? Has your relationship with food and exercise been altered by Covid19? And, do you use your age as an excuse to accept status-quo instead of trying?

47 Comments on “Comfort Food and Consequences

  1. Timely and honest post. 🙂 Being at home day after day for 5+ months has made a huge adjustment to our lives including the three highlights of the day being breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I could write a dissertation here on how much physical exercise I get in my garden, but the reality is that it is offset by way too much sitting. So, I’ll cut to the chase and admit I could do a lot better and thank you for the reminder. 🙂

    Like

    • I have not gained weight during the pandemic, however menopause starting about five years ago DEFINITELY had a negative impact. The crushing fatigue and lack of sleep has been brutal, and the weight slowly piled on as I struggled to maintain my once-normal fitness routine.

      I finally threw in the towel and started on HRT this year. What a lifechanger that has been! I feel ‘normal’ for the first time in years, and the weight is coming off as I’m back to daily long bouts of exercise. Yesterday we did an eight mike walk in the sand at the beach, today is a paddleboard around the harbor followed by a long walk, tomorrow we are kayaking six miles, the next day we are biking 30 miles, etc., etc.

      The key to weight control for me is my caloric output. I already eat pretty modestly, but need the ability to burn calories through motion to stay in balance. Though, ironically, I don’t view my activities as exercise. I view them as things I genuinely love to do, and that make me feel fabulous both during and after. That is different from my younger self for sure. My younger self exercised purely for the physical results. My older self still appreciates the physical results, but values the mental results much, much more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tamara, you are one of the most disciplined people I have ever met, so it is no doubt that you have managed your fitness throughout Covid. Finding ‘balance’ is where I’m at right now, and I have to be careful not to add excessive calories given my restricted routine. I would love to be doing the things you mentioned, but would likely suffer heat stroke in our brutal heat and humidity. Cooler temps are coming! I totally agree with your assessment of then and now and why we exercise.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Suzanne, in response to your reply (I don’t no how the embedding got so off!), a big difference with age is I can no longer add calories to my daily total as a result of working out. That is a big fat (ha!) bummer, because in my younger years I could. I apparently have the metabolism of a snail!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Great post and I can relate to everything you said! I retired during this Covid time so I have been able to have more time to take care of me. I have lost about 8 pounds and want to lose about 5 or 6 more. I have done16:8 intermittent fasting, limiting my carbs, plus walking 3 miles 5-6 mornings a week. I need to add in some weight resistance and you have motivated me to start. Here is to our continued success!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, my replies have all gone willy-nilly on me. Hope this one lands where it is supposed to. I tried the 16:8 intermittent fasting and could not stick with it. Good for you for making it work for you. Walking is great, but do try to add some resistance. If you have hills in your neighborhood, that would suffice. We have nothing but flat terrain in Florida, so I walk on the treadmill at a steep incline. It has definitely made a difference.

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      • I do have hills in my neighborhood – I am currently walking the easier route with low to moderate hills (most of the current route is fairly flat), but based on your comment, I may start incorporating the more steeper route next week. My upper arms need work so I would like to start some sort of weights with that area. Thanks for your timely and motivating post.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad to hear you have done well with your weight loss and workout goals. Me, not so much. Yes, my exercise routine has been affected and yes I use my age as an excuse to accept my weight. I was into a regular workout routine of going to the gym for using weights, walking, and water aerobics when the restrictions began. All I did for a while was walk and work in my garden. When it got too hot outside to even walk, I became a slug until water aerobics started again. Yay! I have gained back the weight I was before COVID and have not done much to try to lose it.

    Like

    • Beth, I am living for cooler weather and I am sure you are too. It was hard at first to give up foods I love, (and Malcolm’s baking), but after a while, it became routine. Having my daughter as an accountability partner helped a lot. When you decided to lose the weight, you will do it. Winter is coming!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I needed to lose weight before COVID but I’ve gained more since. I finally decided to get serious and started a new way of eating a week ago. I’m waiting two weeks to weigh and measure myself but I already feel better. I’m adding walking to my routine tomorrow but I’ve found eating to be my biggest issue with weight. Adding resistance training is a good idea. I don’t need to lose muscle!! Thanks for providing a boost for me. It’s easy to get discouraged when you can’t eat anything you want.

    Like

    • I do miss eating foods that I love, and of course, I will splurge from time to time, but right now I am focused on getting fit and being healthy. Good luck and most definitely add resistance training to your routine. It does make a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good for you, Suzanne, to stick to your health and fitness plan to achieve your long term goals. I like your statement: “Age is not a free pass, it’s a wake up call”. My eating pattern and weight have been stable. I stay active by doing the physical activities that I enjoy and alternate strengthening workouts and yoga throughout the week. I like the feelings of “fit and strong” and after maintaining a disciplined fitness routine for many years, it’s ingrained in me, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever let it go.

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    • Hi Natalie, I have a tendency to blame a lot of things on aging, but I need to stop doing that and make a better effort. I am too young to surrender! Your activities are so ingrained in your ‘lifestyle’ and you make everything seem almost effortless. I know it is not, and I applaud your discipline and dedication to self-care.

      Like

  5. Hi Suzanne,
    I admire your daily workout…I’ve been trying to get in my daily walk, but don’t love it as Dan’s ankle no longer allows him to walk for long distances so the walk is a bit lonely. Important to keep moving; adding some resistance exercises might help. Thanks for the motivation and reminder. My weight is not a problem, thankfully, due primarily to our whole food plant based diet…which we’ve strayed from a couple of times but get right back to it. It’s not what you do occasionally that’s at issue, it’s what you do habitually that’s important.

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    • Nancy, I admire your dedication to a plant-based diet, but I like cheeseburgers and french fries too much to even attempt something that disciplined. What is habitual for me is exercise. The type and intensity may change throughout the years, but it will always be a part of my day. Being addicted to endorphins probably has a lot to do with that.

      Like

  6. I haven’t gained weight during COVID, but for years I’ve wanted to lose the 10 lbs menopause stuck me with. Being stranded in Florida with the oppressive heat and humidity has been challenging. I get out every morning for about a 4-mile brisk and miserable walk, but it’s all flat terrain, as you know. And even though I do a short 15-minute daily workout (exercise bands or Pilates) I need to do more. I’d rather exercise more than give up my evening gin and tonic, haha! Sounds like you have a great plan, and congratulations on losing 10 pounds.

    Like

    • I hear you, Laurel. There is nothing more satisfying than earning that gin and tonic is there? You can only imagine what I do for a burger!! Oppressive is the perfect word for this summer heat. At least in the evenings we can head over to the beach and catch a breeze as the sunsets. Take care

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It has been difficult during isolation not to reach for comfort food Suzanne. Good for you though in making an effort and plan to lose the extra weight. As a Group Fitness Instructor for Over 50 women, I’m so pleased to hear that you understand the importance of strength training and cardio. We can lose weight by eating less but we need the strength, flexibily, cardio and balance training to help us with our functional fitness to enjoy basic daily activities. Don’t forget to include rest and recovery days and you will have a good program to follow. x

    Like

    • Sue, thanks for the reminder to include recovery days. I do try to vary my workout as to not overstress any particular muscle group, but I could do better. I always appreciate good advice from those in the know!

      Like

  8. Hi, Suzanne – This is an awesome reminder about the vital importance of strength training. Your current workout routine sounds excellent. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Like

  9. Hi Suzanne – you’re doing really well with the variety in your new exercise regime. I’ve been sticking to walking but I know I really should be doing some weights/resistance stuff too. The kilos tend to creep on a lot faster these days – darn slow metabolism! But you’re right that we’ve got to figure out ways to beat the decline rather than giving in to it x

    Like

  10. Suzanne,
    Good for you! Earlier this year, I got fed up with my clothes not fitting and started Nutrisystem. I have attended exercise classes for several years, but after knee and hip surgery, I turned into a slug. I lost 26 pounds on Nutrisystem. After three months on the road, about seven of the 26 returned. You have inspired me to get back to regular workouts. Thanks! Joe

    Like

  11. It’s such a numbers game isn’t it? I lost 12kgs up to March this year and nothing since – I still have about 15kgs to go. I’d done it using my own little brand of food writers diet ie it had to taste good. I’d brought my portions down, cut out midweek alcohol & cut back on midweek carbs, but still let myself do what I wanted pretty much from Friday evening to Sunday lunch. And I upped the steps. While the steps have stayed ok, the midweek restraint has all but disappeared and I’m making a conscious effort to bring that back. I’m also adding some at home resistance training – because I’d been doing no strength work at all.

    Like

    • Jo, I gave up on variety and flavor around week 2. There are just too many things my daughter won’t eat and since she is in it with me, it’s just easier to keep things streamlined. I honestly could not have held the course without her motivating me. I added limited wine back in around week 6. It makes my bland meal taste so much better! Sounds like you are doing a lot of things right, and keeping it tasty! The resistance work will help a lot. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Great title, Suzanne, I suspect you have been peeking in my window, lately. 🙂 The diet and weight thing has been an issue for me most of my life. Not unlike many people. Each of us has a different body and different challenges. Yet, there is information available, a basic formula with tweaking, and ready to make changes as we age and our lifestyle changes. Re: your last question, I was doing almost daily the 90 minute Bikram Hot yoga class for the last five years, before shut down. Plus my other activities (aerobic/weights). The hot yoga transformed my body. My body is a little more marshmallowy, yet my capabilities/functioning is still good. I am always a work in progress.🙂

    Like

    • Erica, physical fitness is definitely tailor-made to each individual and we all have our own specific challenges. What worked at age 30 will certainly not work today. The most important thing is to understand what our bodies and minds need to stay healthy and do our best to supply those things as consistently as possible. Re-evaluating is the word of the year, right now. Anyone over 50 who has gone through menopause understands how pesky those marshmallowy bits can be! Stay well.

      Like

  13. Very good post Suzanne. With our brutal heat and humidity, I’ve stopped walking five miles a day. Will start again when the weather cools off a little and the couple of pounds I’ve put on will come back off…hopefully, it usually does. 😊

    Like

  14. Age as an excuse? hell no… we have stepped our regimen although frankly it is nothing as rigorous as yours. However, we do a yoga class three times a week which is quite challenging as it is not beginner yoga, and the class is an hour and a half. Add to that some stretching and some swimming and a lot of walking and some things like pushups and squats at the beach and that is our schedule. The closest thing to weight bearing is lifting the fifteen pound watermelon haha because we have no access to weights here, however, yoga has quite a bit of weight bearing exercise with things like plank and so forth. Well done to you for sticking to your routine and reaching your goal. Its so easy in our sixties it seems to have all that comfort food go straight into inches on the waist, unfortunately.

    Peta

    Like

  15. I have put on weight in the past year since relaxing my vigilance in regards to tracking (nutrition and activity). I do enjoy the more relaxed relationship I have with food and even working out, but if I’m honest, I don’t love the fact that some of my clothes are too tight now. And at 59 (next month), I do find that small adjustments don’t result in big rewards anymore. If only I could find that happy medium. Regardless, you are correct that strength training is absolutely crucial as we age. I have also been working in more movements aimed at improving balance. I want to be independent and able to enjoy as much of life as possible for as long as possible.

    Like

    • Covid has certainly had an impact in many ways, least of all our weight gain. I can’t wait for summer to end so I can get outside and move more. Today the heat index is 110F. Walking a treadmill is boring, but that will have to suffice. Adjusting continues to be the name of the game. Take care and thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  16. Suzanne, you are definitely not alone on the comfort eating front, I am certainly guilty of it also. But kudos to you for confronting the problem head on and doing something about it. Sounds like you know exactly what works for you. I also have managed to lose the weight I gained with lockdown, a sensible diet and exercise took care of it. I just hope I can keep it up now that we are travelling again. Stay well!

    Like

  17. Great post! I was actually doing fine all through the lockdown. Since the quarantine ended though, l have eased off my YouTube Zumba and Kickboxing classes. I think we will be headed back to the gym next month. Hopefully :-).

    Like

  18. Suzanne, you’ve made an important point about the importance of weight/resistance training. I have strong legs from a lifetime of skiing, but my core and upper body strength isn’t that great. Now that I have my kayak, I’m motivated to increase my strength in those areas so I can carry the kayak and use proper paddling technique.

    Jude

    Like

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