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Deborah Lestingi sitting in a box that has bad habits traped and with a trophy of Good Habits on top

Habits during the quarantine

Another amazing collaboration post. I met Deborah through a mutual friend, the fantastic Amanda (you can check her story here).

Deborah Lestingi is a Clinical and Sports Nutritionist at USP, currently specializing in Weight Loss and Obesity. With more than 5 years of experience in this specific subject, she usually works alongside with her patient with a “mentor” approach, stimulating good shifts instead of just making a list of don’ts. 

I love following her Instagram (Sorry… Portuguese only, folks! 😉 ) because she shows how much she’s passionate about her work. I enjoy her tips – they highlight good food choices rather than stimulating fear.

I’ve invited her to talk about the COVID-19 situation: what is the balance between avoiding stress and taking care of our diet?

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Written by: Deborah Lestingi

Translated by: Fernanda d’Avila Melo Sarmento

Knowing what habits we can prioritize in this pandemic can help us to cope with both the physical and emotional consequences of everything that is happening in the world. 

It’s a funny thing: “health” is the most widely spoken word at the moment and taking it as a priority in this quarantine period. At the same time, we see how much we are leaving aside basic health care and well-being practices such as: stopping physical activity and discounting stress on food with poor nutritional quality. 

Why does it happen? 

Challenging the brain is a good thing, but it takes a lot of brain energy. In such a stressful moment, it’s unnatural to do so. 

The default for our mind and body is to enter an energy-saving mode, in other words, we’re ruled by the “law of minimum effort” – which makes sense since this is a resource used precisely to manage these stressful periods in a better way. It invites us to focus attention on what is essential (survival mode). 

Now here is the tricky part… right at this moment, you start limiting what you do to the basics for survival, not to thrive in a flow, in a relaxed way, connecting with our being, enjoying ourselves on the path. 

Here is my secret: we must eliminate habits that don’t help, i.e., investing tons of energy in goals that make no sense, or trying to be the best in everything all the time. 

The goal during this harsh period should be to think about another type of productivity: the one that generates well-being, satisfaction! 

Remember: you and only you are responsible for your life. It is one thing to seek the most straightforward path. It’s fair to seek simplicity. To neglect your actions is a whole other story. 

Considering your health: you shouldn’t be neurotic about having the perfect body – any obsessive attitude can easily lead us to more stress. 

Therefore, before investing a lot of energy in health promotion actions in your daily life, have clarity and be inspired by them: start with the easy stuff, with attitudes that you can intensify daily (ex: increase water consumption, reduce coffee or sugar). 

Complement with activities that replenish your energies, something rewarding… the mind must find a way to flow! A fluid mind feels effortless.

Every habit change requires repetition and frequency. However, it can be really difficult – especially if we consider the quarantine – not to relapse. Be aware that it’s all okay: we are more vulnerable and prone to give in to old habits. 

Habit is something that does not depend on consciousness to exist. That’s why all attempts to change are countered by automatic and involuntary behavior. Therein lies the importance of understanding how your habits and behaviors work.

Failures are a part of the process. The important thing is to know how to deal with them! Yes, your mind will conspire against you, after all … we are designed to save energy, both physical and mental. 

Original photo by @deborahlestingi.nutri / Illustration co-created with @andresidarta

How to deal with that?

  • Value your effort and, after the failure, move on and continue to repeat the new habit. 
  • Identify what triggers you to fail: Maybe you can prevent those moments from occurring. 
  • Remember: this is the moment most people give up on change, because they do not know how the process works… but feeling uncomfortable is natural. 
  • The brain tends to adapt, and as we repeat our actions, these habits become more reliable and more consistent. The more you do something, the better it will be done. 

Last (but not least), waiting to have “willpower” to change is shooting yourself in the foot. Commitment comes first. Committing to making something happen is what will keep you on track before you have the drive or any natural inclination to do anything effortlessly. 

Here is what I recommend: alternate between activities that can be done regardless of any will and tasks that require moderate to a high level of skill. This will allow a balance at the same time that creates pride to overcoming limits. 

Summing all up: start slowly and don’t overestimate your ability to change. Unworkable goals lead to failure and a feeling of powerlessness in the face of one’s behavior. Start small and take firm steps, establish consistency. You’ve got this!

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If you can to download the text in Portuguese click here.

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