Post-Covid Diet Reset: Reversing Our Bad Habits

We understand the pandemic isn’t over, especially outside the U.S., but in circles like ours where almost everyone has been vaccinated and is beginning to socialize and travel, it sure feels like we’re on the other side. As we restart our normal lives, one area of slight concern might be our food and beverage habits as the two stories we’ve linked to indicate. Being at home almost every night for an entire year meant there was no reason to not have a cocktail or open a bottle of wine. Those moments of despair (languishing is the word of the moment) could be temporarily cured with a fancy chocolate or a homemade brownie, or both! It’s easy for those pick-me-ups to slide into established habits, like Marjie’s Florida sunset cocktails or her new morning mini-muffin fix.

Look at us chopping up all these healthy veggies! Photo by Katrina Wittkamp.

For this challenge, we both chose five days to undo what we thought were our worst dietary habits. I’m sure it should have been more, but honestly, even five days seemed like a long time (and it was!). Keep reading to see what habits we tried to change and how we succeeded.

Laura

Resets: sweets and spirits

Since I went back to work full-time, I’ve always had a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate squares in my desk drawer, and every afternoon, I eat one. Being at home, instead of the wrapped chocolate squares, my daughter and I have collected a bunch of fancy chocolate bars. So that one square maybe (definitely) increased into a few pieces. Also, after dinner I’ve always had a small homemade cookie or brownie, and that certainly didn’t end during the pandemic (although to be fair it didn’t increase either). Since this challenge wasn’t about cutting back but cutting out to reset our palettes and habits, those two daily sweet hits were out.

My other habit is to share a cocktail with my husband while I cook dinner. He keeps me company, and we have a proper drink (I was a bartender during college and he works for a spirits company so we’re not messing around). My moderation was simply that when he traveled for work, which was often, I would skip the cocktail if I was home alone. Drinking by yourself seems rather sad and it was a good way to take a break.

Obviously, the past year, I haven’t been alone at all. So every night we’d have a cocktail or once a week, we’d open (and finish) a bottle of wine. Was this a problem? I wasn’t sure, but it seemed like a booze-free week was one way to find out.

Five Days Without

Giving up my nightly cocktail turned out to be not such a big deal. I made myself a mocktail, and I made it fancy with sparkling water, fancy ice, a real cocktail glass and garnishes like by favorite Bada Bing Cherries or a wedge of lime. For mixers, I used kombucha, freshly squeezed orange juice or just bitters. All delish and satisfied my thirst for something more interesting than water or tea.

Even slightly mangled in transit, I couldn’t resist the Georgetown Cupcakes my sister brought for our celebratory Mother’s Day dinner.

However, I can’t say the same about giving up sweets. I defined a “sweet” as anything made with refined sugar: candy, baked goods, flavored yogurt, etc. The first day, I blew it by mindlessly breaking off a small piece of chocolate while I was procrastinating and opening kitchen cabinets. Once I got a little more mindful, I didn’t slip up, but I did compensate: a handful of nuts, a dried date, an orange. I doubt my calories intake changed a bit; maybe these were healthier substitutes, but I was annoyed. I don’t need a lot of dessert in my life, but setting it off limits meant it was all I wanted. When the week was over, I traveled to my sister’s house to celebrate Mother’s Day with my siblings and mom. I inhaled chocolate-covered almonds, which aren’t even my favorite sweet, but they were there. When my other sister brought Georgetown Cupcakes for dessert, I practically cheered. Truthfully, they were a little dry and not as good as the ones I make, but did that stop me, absolutely not. Deprivation just makes you want it more, so maybe this is why diets fail.

My weight didn’t change over the week, and nothing that dramatic happened. I expected to sleep better, have clearer skin and boundless energy, but not really.

Now What?

Unless I have a health reason to give up alcohol or sweets, I won’t. I’ll continue to moderate my intake. One square of chocolate in the afternoon and a small dessert at night. One cocktail during the evening and nothing when I’m alone, so instead of cutting out, I’m merely going to scale back. It seems like a long-term strategy that I can succeed at.

Marjie

Readers, please follow Laura’s example in this area, because she is a discerning foodie who prepares and consumes only the loveliest of concoctions while exhibiting restraint and grace. Even in normal times, I’m an indifferent cook yet willing to chow down on pretty much anything. Spending much of the pandemic in Florida, my habits have become sloppier. The warm weather, dazzling sunsets and my hubby’s constant presence make me feel like I’m on vacation. It’s been a nice escape, but I can’t keep eating and drinking like a college senior on Spring Break.

Reset: Let’s Go Paleo

I decided to go all-in for this reset challenge by embracing a Paleo diet. My husband had huge success with the similar Whole Life Challenge in the past—lost weight, improved cholesterol and blood pressure—and we were excited to do it together. Here’s what I committed to give up for the week (with some wiggle room allowed on the weekend):

  • Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
  • Alcohol
  • All processed carbs and grains
  • Dairy (except for butter)
  • Legumes

Highs and Lows

Sounds extreme, but I figured—it’s just a short time, how hard could it be? How naive I was. Here’s how I progressed:

Sunday—Excited to begin. Cleared all banned foods from the fridge and pantry, ate only fruits and veggies (potatoes allowed) and meat and eggs. Skipped the morning muffin and cream in my coffee and drank lots of water. Went to bed early with a cup of herbal tea. Felt very virtuous.

Can’t remember if this was breakfast, lunch or dinner. All meals are basically the same on Paleo.

Monday— Fretted about what to eat before my tennis match instead of my usual peanut butter toast and mid-match protein bar. Had leftover potatoes, tunafish, berries and SmartWater. It was very hot and we lost the match but felt okay. Attended a team party (all of us vaccinated) and stuck to sparkling water and grilled shrimp/veggie kabobs. Resisted wine, orzo, cheese, a sugary salad, cookies and cake. It was an effort. Got a headache. Went home and complained bitterly to my husband about the ridiculously punitive diet that sucked every shred of joy out of life. Took a CBD gummy (yes, with sugar) and went to bed grumpy.

Power breakfast: tuna, potatoes with spinach, berries.

Tuesday—Sick of eating so much protein but hard to get satisfied by fruits, nuts and veggies. Played tennis at noon and had no energy. Came home hungry and headachy (a common symptom of starting the Paleo diet is the “carb flu“). Made a snack so unappealing I cried. Liam mixed me a gin & tonic. Agreed healthier carbs should be allowed.

Sad Snack: bacon, apple sauce, tomato

Wednesday, Thursday—Having the option of oatmeal, corn tortillas, brown rice and quinoa was a game changer! Feeling carbo-loaded, I didn’t miss the rest of the stuff much at all.

Dinner: Chicken tacos (hooray for corn tortillas!) pineapple slaw, avocado and orange slices.

Friday, Saturday—Went out with friends and “wiggled” with french fries and two glasses of wine. Otherwise, not too hard to stick with the revised plan. Avocados, eggs and citrus fruits are lifesavers!

Restaurant lunch: pineapple boat with tuna and chicken salad (mayo is allowed)

Now What?

Despite all my drama, this reset helped me shed a pound and a half and learn some important things about my eating habits and energy. First of all, I need carbs, especially early in the day when I’m more active. I like the healthy options, so I’ll use them more and continue to eat more fruits and veggies. Surprisingly, I didn’t miss sugar or dairy much, so I’ll keep cutting back (bye-bye muffin). I could do better with the booze, but it’s hard to focus on everything at once. Like Laura, I respond better to reducing an item rather than ruling it out completely. My reset, while extreme, showed me how I can improve what I consume without feeling too deprived.

Did you overindulge in anything over the pandemic? Are you planning a reset? If so, let us know what you’ve got in mind and how it goes. We’re on Facebook and Instagram @stylechallengers.

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