Maintaining in the time of COVID19

Steve Marshall | 17 Apr, 2020

I'm writing this in mid-April 2020, and Ann and I have been 'locked down' for about four weeks. After twenty months of dieting and five years of maintaining, my daily routine of eating and exercise has become well-established and stable. And other than small wobbles, my weight has become stable too. Well... until four weeks ago!

We tend to lead our lives on an even keel, without major dramas or changes. So we were surprised, soon after we knew that we were going to have to stay in the house, how rapidly our attitudes to food and drink changed. In fact we felt four strange needs:

  1. A strange need to take stock of what had been living in the backs of our kitchen cupboards, and at the bottom of our chest freezer. Cupboard food tended to be things we thought were probably 'not worth the calories' (for example spaghetti) or foods we were not exactly sure what to do with (for example polenta). Freezer stuff tended to be small Tupperware containers whose labels had come off, or where the labels were still there, but we couldn't really figure out what was inside the container. Would anyone fancy something where the label said 'kidney + fried salad'?
  2. A strange need to actually use all the above foods that we unearthed, plus foods we had acquired because supermarket home deliveries gave us unexpected substitutions. We rarely throw any food away, and we didn't want to change that – meaning that cooking got tougher, because we were dealing with foods that were unusual for us, or even ingredients we couldn't identify. Improvisation was called for!
  3. A strange need to eat things that were more calorific than we usually eat. I think the first time we realised that was when we found some Arborio rice (pudding rice as we used to call it) in the cupboard, and felt an overwhelming desire to make a rice pudding. That surprised us, because we reckoned that we had not had a rice pudding since 2010! But the desire was strong, and that afternoon some ingredient improvisation went on (we didn't have any butter) and we had a delicious rice pudding that evening. With strawberry jam, despite the fact that we never eat that usually, but found a jar of best-before-2017 jam, right at the very back of the fridge. And the next day, as I remember, we had an 'interesting' dish involving kidney and fried salad, made much nicer by a generous layer of cheese. And so it went on.
  4. A strange need to drink more alcohol. We are no strangers to alcohol anyway, but as soon as the lockdown started, we found that our 'portion sizes' increased, and also that we began to explore the full range of what was in the cupboards. We even sampled things that were suddenly quite attractive, after years of being the opposite. Including an unopened bottle of Mezcal (you know – the one with a worm in the bottle).

No doubt there are deep-seated reasons for these strange needs, including something about being under siege, and not being able to eat out. But we didn't think too much about the reasons – we just got stuck in. However you don't need to be a genius to figure out what happened. We put on weight! For a week or so we didn't care much about our weight, but we are both confirmed daily weighers, and so we couldn't help but notice what was happening, and wondered what we were going to do about it.

We started off by making sure we kept our daily steps up. That was quite easy, because we live in the country, and the weather has been nice, so we had a good walk every day. But then, and more importantly than steps, we also started to be more careful with what we ate and drank. We didn't pretend that we were going to go back to our usual maintenance regime under lockdown, and we recognised that we would probably carry on using up back-of-the-cupboard and bottom-of-the-freezer things, but then we would not be having rice pudding every day. So far our calorific and delicious desserts seem to be held to twice a week, and liberal use of cheese is held to just once a week, if that.

To be honest, we didn't think that this modestly careful approach would be good enough. But in fact, between the two of us, we have lost four pounds in the last three weeks. Not dramatic, but then we are maintainers, and so just staying the same is fine. I imagine that our slow loss is at least partly because we are not staying away in hotels under the lockdown, which rather raises the question of what will happen when the lockdown ends and we start going away again. Will we, for example, be able to once more cut out rice pudding? We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it, but in the meantime guess what we're having this evening!

Steve lost a massive 10st with Nutracheck. He now regularly writes about how he maintains his weight loss.