I know it’s hard to keep to a schedule when life gets turned upside down and you don’t even know what day it is, but for performers and all of us, this is the time to really focus on how you can take care of yourself. This is the first in a three-part series where I’m going to go over simple ways to stay healthy during this pandemic through how you eat, move, and think.
I’ve seen a lot of people fall into two camps with eating during the pandemic, either they let everything go and curl up with comfort foods all day or they become too vigilant, trying to control everything that goes into their mouths. Neither is ideal. Even though there are no shows happening your body still needs fuel. Taking care of yourself can be as easy as focusing on a few key areas and letting the rest of the details go, no counting or label-reading necessary!
Here are this dietitian’s tips to get you through.
1. Eat the rainbow!
Every color, even white, has unique properties that help our body stay healthy. You can’t “boost” your immunity with any supplements or food, but you can support your immune system to work it’s best with a vibrant plate. Focus on getting a variety of different colors of food throughout your week. This is a great time to experiment with recipes and takeout that you wouldn’t normally get the chance to try during a crazy rehearsal or shooting schedule. Start playing with different recipes you can batch-cook for when things get busy again.
2. Focus on food safety.
Clean, separate, cook, chill. These are the four steps to making sure your food won’t make you sick. It’s never a good time to get sick, but you really want to make sure you won’t throw off the production schedule with a bout of food poisoning! So get used to paying attention to these steps now if you don’t already. For more info on food safety practices, visit FoodSafety.gov.
Clean: Wash your hands, surfaces, and food, well. Definitely wash anything that comes in contact with raw meat, dairy, or eggs.
Separate: Separate food items when prepping, especially raw meat and eggs from other foods, and don’t share cutting boards, plates, or utensils with these.
Cook and chill: Avoid the “danger zone” (40–140 degrees Fahrenheit). Don’t leave food out for more than two hours without chilling to below 40 degrees, which is the temperature your refrigerator should be. The 40–140 degree range is the perfect environment for bacteria that cause foodborne illness to grow. When cooking or reheating food, make sure it gets over 140 degrees (or higher depending on the specific food). Time to pull out that kitchen thermometer that’s been sitting in your drawer forever.
3. Watch out for disordered eating patterns.
Eating disorders are a coping mechanism that likes to pop up in times of stress, transition, and isolation (umm, pandemic-time, anyone?). Performers seem to be at a higher risk for developing eating disorders due to the level of perfectionism and drive one must possess to succeed in show-biz, plus the public body scrutiny. Food, or lack thereof, can give a sense of control or means of ”checking-out” as a way to cope with stress. If you’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past, or have a predisposition to one, it’s worth keeping an eye on how you’re relating to food.
With eating disorders having the second-highest rate of mortality among psychiatric conditions, it’s imperative to get help early on! Some signs to watch out for include trying to numb-out with eating, excessively thinking about food, avoiding eating or being very rigid with what you allow yourself to eat, or eating in secret, just to name a few. If you notice any of these behaviors or thoughts coming up, be sure to seek help. Look for a registered dietitian, therapist, and physician who specializes in eating disorders.
4. Stay hydrated.
What color is your p...ee? Hopefully a very pale yellow. If not, get thee to the faucet! Being even 2% dehydrated can cause problems like headaches and reduced athletic performance. Water, tea, juice, soup, and water-rich fruits and veggies all contribute to your daily intake. I know a lot of performers like to put off drinking during a show so they don’t have to rush to the bathroom, but it really does your body a disservice. With this time off you can get your body used to being hydrated and train your bladder control (holding it a little bit longer).
Here are some tips to drink more. Keep a water bottle or cup with you all the time. I leave full cups by my desk, bedside table, and kitchen table, so I have no excuse to not drink up. Throw a water bottle in your bag or car when on-the-go. Struggling to make sure you have enough? Get a 32-ounce water bottle and label down the side with times: 8 a.m./2 p.m., 9 a.m./3 p.m., 10 a.m./4 p.m., 11 a.m./5 p.m., noon/6 p.m. Make sure you drink it down by the time listed and refill after noon.
How do your nutrition habits stack-up? What goal can you set this week to encourage healthy habits? Make sure you check back for the other two parts of this series. Next, we’ll focus on physical activity tips for when you’re stuck at home.
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