Making the Pandemic Work For Me
When the pandemic began in the spring of 2020, I did what almost everyone did, I gained 15 pounds. For all we knew, the world was coming to an end. We might as well eat our favorite foods in the meantime. I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. My blue jeans stopped fitting but that hardly mattered. The sweatpants I wore on a daily basis had an elastic waistband.
While the memories of those early months are already beginning to fade, my recollection is that the world basically shut down. Schools were closed. Businesses operated remotely or not at all. Other than food, drugs and other necessities, the brick-and-mortar retail world imploded. We stayed home which meant we were never more than a few steps from the kitchen. We ate alone so we could stuff our faces without risk of embarrassment. We were prisoners and, as such, we deserved whatever creature comforts we could corral. Like others, I found my comfort in comfort food.
By the time the summer rolled around and the pandemic showed no signs of abating, I knew that my personal pity party had to come to an end. Moreover, I came to the realization that a worldwide pandemic could be a real opportunity for self-improvement. After all, we were eating every meal at home. Restaurants were closed. There were no bread baskets to tempt us. People stopped congregating except perhaps for the occasional drive-by parties. There were no hors d'oeuvres platters to test us. Everything we ate we prepared ourselves. We had absolute control.
Rather than submit, I decided to make the pandemic work for me. I vowed that I would make something positive out of our shared nightmare. I may not have known how long the pandemic was likely to last, but I knew that it would eventually come to an end. Years from now, when I would reflect back on the pandemic, I wanted something unambiguously good to have come from it, at least personally. I decided to lose some serious weight.
As a child growing up in Oak Park, Michigan, we shopped at Brody’s Knee-High Shop because they specialized in “husky” boys. I spent my adult years progressing from overweight to obese. Although I always hated being called “big guy”, that’s exactly what I was for my first 65 years on this planet. Still, history is not destiny. Maybe I wasn’t doomed to go through life as an “XL”.
Over the decades I would lose weight from time to time. I had success with a diet program called “Just Help Yourself”, a precursor to the Jenny Craig diet. Didn’t take. I lost a bunch of weight on a no carb diet. Then put it all back on and then some. Pastrami is fine for a while but eventually you are going to have to put it between a couple of slices of double-baked rye bread to give it some structure.
I decided that this time I would not use a program diet. I had dieted enough over the years to know the foods I should eat and the foods that I should stay away from. The diet that I crafted for myself had three simple rules: 1) Nothing fried, 2) Nothing sweet and 3) Watch your portions.
It worked. Moreover, I started cooking on a regular basis—something I had not done in 40 years of marriage. I did this, not just because I was bored and needed to fill the hours of the day. I did it to control what I ate. Nothing fancy--spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, oven-baked ‘fried’ chicken, tacos, hamburgers--my culinary tastes never really evolved beyond eighth grade cafeteria food. Yet by eliminating French fries, ice cream and ‘seconds’, I was able to lose over 40 pounds.
The world has now reopened. We are starting to go out to restaurants again and, for the more adventurous among us, actually eating inside. We are beginning to gather again with our friends. Temptations will abound. But I think I may be able to keep the weight off this time. I achieved something difficult and important during the pandemic. I made those long, lonely months work for me. Giving that up would be like losing all that time all over again and that thought is simply too depressing to contemplate. Wish me luck.
- Neil Gorosh, Gracefully Greying contributing writer