Ask the Expert: How to ‘build back better’ health habits after the pandemic year
Claudia Finkelstein, associate professor of family medicine, wrote this piece for The Conversation, an independent collaboration between editors and academics that provides informed news analysis and commentary to the general public. See the entire list of articles written by MSU faculty for The Conversation.
The U.S. is in far different shape today than it was last Memorial Day, and many Americans are, too.
According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, undesired changes in weight driven by pandemic stress are widespread: 42% of adults reported gaining weight, with a median weight gain of 15 pounds, while 18% reported undesired weight loss. About 66% of people reported changes in their sleep habits, and 23% of respondents reported an increase in alcohol use.
The switch that got flipped in March 2020 to social distancing, remote schooling, mask-wearing and long-distance work – or no work – is switching back almost as abruptly. With little preparation time, many people are faced with wanting to be in top form for reentry. Resuming – or beginning – healthier habits is a wonderful goal. Trying to get back to normal too quickly, however, may be hard on joints and hearts. Here is a guide to help you get back in shape without hurting yourself.
It is vital to begin with acceptance of your current state while you plan and implement changes. It may be necessary to hold two seemingly contradictory truths at once – a core tenet of dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT. A classic example of DBT is when a therapist tells a client, “I love you exactly the way you are, and I’m here to help you change.” The statements are simultaneously in opposition to each other and true.
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