The Covid-15: Back-to-office life may not be the only thing weighing us down
FREELANCER HEALTH GUIDE
The COVID-15 has spread across international borders. Luckily, it’s not a new virus. It’s the 15-pounds of unwanted weight gain that has sneakily spread across a growing number of freelancer waistlines and work-from-home workers from Manchester to Manhattan.
As much as some freelancers have taken advantage of their flexible or spare time over the past 18 months, by scheduling in swims, walks, runs, cycling or yoga, there are freelancers who haven’t. They are the ones who have been desk-bound. And they need a swift shift in mindset to enhance their self-preservation.
One of the UK’s most beloved contractors recently revealed how they plan to lose their lockdown weight gain.
“I don’t know about you, but I have piled on more than a few pounds during lockdown and gone up at least one dress size,” says ITV television presenter and contractor Lorraine Kelly in her Hello magazine column.
“It’s all down to comforting eating while sitting watching FAR too much TV, and this combined with not being able to go to my exercise classes, has meant the weight has gradually crept on over the past eighteen months,” says the ITV star.
Earlier this month, Kelly and her husband, Steve, started walking the Thames Path from the source of the River Thames in Wiltshire through to Oxford, Henley and then to the centre of London, ending up almost 200 miles away at the Thames Barrier. Their dog Angus joined them.
I don’t know about you, but I have piled on more than a few pounds during lockdown and gone up at least one dress size.Lorraine Kelly, ITV presenter
Factors that could be contributing to freelancer “COVID-15” weight gain
- Are you guilty of using what used to be commute time on sending early morning work emails? Scheduling in earlier morning online meetings rather than allocating that extra hour on exercising or an enjoyable pastime?
- Are you eating your lunch at your desk while working? Do you have a lunch break at all with all the Zoom meetings?
- Are you effectively working more hours with no extra pay and taking less time to look after your health?
Those that are battling the bulge could easily point the finger of blame to lockdown comfort eating or back-to-back Zoom meetings that have become the “new norm” of work-from-home life. Both have contributed to a sedentary work-focused lifestyle.
For some, the COVID-15 won’t be noticeable. That is until they try on their pre-COVID office attire the night before their first face-to-face client meeting. A few “expletives” just may escape from the bedroom closet. That comfortable pair of tracksuit bottoms or shorts can’t hide underneath the desk or behind a Zoom filter anymore. It’s game time.
Yet, by working from home even just half of the time, we should take advantage of early morning or evening walks or other forms of exercise. We should pre-prepare our lunches so we can use that time to enjoy rather than wolf down our food. And fit in a 15-minute post-lunch stroll. If we all just de-compressed we would all be more productive at our work tasks.
Sarah Townsend, the blogger turned author behind, Survival Skills for Freelancers, shares with The Freelance Informer, her personal experience of managing her health and freelance career in lockdown.
“I’d love to be able to say I did Joe Wicks workouts day and night and that lockdown had no adverse effect on my health and weight, but the reality is probably somewhere in between,” says Townsend.
Townsend admits, like many fellow freelancers, that she is not as fit as she was pre-Covid.
“Perhaps I’ve put on a couple of pounds,” she says. Highlighting that she is a “big advocate of prioritising your health and wellbeing when you’re freelance.”
“Exercise is vital to my own mental health, so it’s always been a priority for me. Now that my gym has reopened I’m back to swimming three times a week,” she says.
She continues, “Even when I’m not working out I’m working in the lounge bar (I call it my second office!) and I walk there and back every day. No one wants to finish the working day feeling stiff and achy, or contributing to long-term conditions – such as heart disease and diabetes – that are caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Get moving!”
Embrace the ‘healthier’ freelancer lifestyle you promised yourself
- Pick and mix by treating yourself
Think of weight loss and exercise as a pick and mix sweet shop. No, we are not suggesting you do a sweetie binge, but rather to look at managing your daily movement as a mixture of pleasures, treats, not chores.
If you are putting in long hours, what incentive do you have to then fit in something you don’t even enjoy? What you enjoyed doing at 20 is often not the same at 40. Find an activity that gets you moving and brings you joy.
The French have this attitude mastered. In Mireille Guiliano’s self-help book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, the French author points out that moving like a French woman means including activities that you would do out of your own desires. Be that tennis, long walks, swimming or anything else that gets you moving to expel extra calories. Of course, this isn’t just French women, but French men, too.
“It’s only the view of the workout as a mandatory sentence that rubs us up the wrong way,” says Guiliano of the French. “It’s the puritanical rule of ‘no pain, no gain’ that we reject.”
“I encourage you to look at everyday movement, what you do in street clothes, as essential to your overall wellness and not to see exertion as something assigned to the gym,” she says.
How can freelancers break unhealthy habits?
Many of us that run our own businesses have probably read suggestions, such as to never eat while watching television, or on the run. But we often slip back into these bad habits because we are on deadline or juggling different projects.
However, if we start to treat our time, and not just the time of our clients, with greater respect, we will experience more balance in our lives. That could mean making every meal a mini ceremony of healthy pleasure; making the time to hit some golf balls or take a walk while catching up with a friend on the phone. Every freelancer is in control of what inspires or gives them pleasure and at the same time provides a health benefit.
Bond with nature and others to lose weight and stressful thoughts
Wake up an hour earlier every morning to get in a 40-to-60-minute walk or cycle, that also acts as some quiet time to “just be”. You could also use this time as a way to bond with your partner. Or set time aside after evening meals to go for a walk.
In the early evening, I often spot an elderly couple walking together. The husband walks in front of his wife down the country lane. She sometimes reaches out to him for physical support. There is no pavement, so they eventually walk to a path that leads them to the nearby fields to enjoy the bucolic countryside views. I sense purpose and pleasure in their walks.
People of their generation are among those that still remember the days before every family had a car. When people walked to work, to the shops, to the bank, to the post office, etc. It was also an excuse to catch up with people along the way; to break up the monotony of the day with some social interaction. We all could do with more of that (even with masks on).
Every freelancer is in control of what inspires or gives them pleasure and at the same time provides a health benefit.
Fitting in exercise when you are a single parent
If you are a single parent of young children and this early morning hour of non-work time is not possible, then schedule in an hour when the kids are at school, or at an after school activity.
And on days when even that isn’t possible, complete an activity in your back garden or in the sitting room before anyone wakes up.
If you can manage it, play tag with your kids. You may forget you are getting a workout if you actually catch one of them!
How to eat healthy at the office
For those of you concerned you won’t be able to have healthy eating habits in an office environment, think again. Start a trend by:
- requesting or initiating office-based healthy activities, such as a post-lunch group walk
- an extra fridge to keep healthy pre-made meals
- carve out a group discount with a health food delivery service or nearby restaurant.
You are your business’ biggest asset, treat it well
If you are struggling to shift some unhealthy weight or just want to feel fantastic rather than fatigued, then start scheduling in time for your healthy habits. Fit them into your pre and post-work schedule. But make them pleasurable, make them something you look forward to every day.
Surprise yourself by trying a new activity or prepping balanced meals that you would be proud to share on social media. If you’re not taking pride in what you are doing for the most valuable asset – you – then keep trying!