Cleaning Out the Closet: Taking Stock of our Health Behaviors

A disorganized closet

Have you noticed yourself constantly finding projects to do around your home while in quarantine? One popular item on everyone’s to-do list is to clean out the closet. Cleaning out a closet involves going through your clothing and deciding what is still useful, what has value, and what you can live without. During our May support group with the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program, Dr. Humberto Cruz, PsyD, MPsy, shared some helpful tips on cleaning out the closet from a health behaviors perspective. Check out this helpful perspective below!

During the pandemic, it is common to feel stressed or anxious. External distress can cause emotional dysfunction which affects our thoughts and choices. Choices made in this state rely heavily on our core values and lifestyle. This is why it is important to make a healthy lifestyle a priority. The first step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle during quarantine is to decide what should be in your behavior “closet”.

What Should Be In Your Closet?

  1. Diet: Maintaining a healthy diet is essential to your overall health during quarantine – here are some tips we discussed during support group:
    • Eating three balanced meals a day will help reduce the urge to snack unnecessarily.
    • Portion control can be made simple with the use of measuring cups or scales. If you do get hungry throughout the day, snack on high-protein sources such as hard boiled eggs, almonds, or greek yogurt.
    • Eating slowly is another important aspect of a healthy diet during quarantine. Eating slowly aids in digestion and helps you become more aware of your hunger and fullness cues. A good goal to work towards is making each meal period 20-30 minutes long. This can be achieved by using smaller utensils, putting your fork down in between bites, or chewing each bite 15-20 times. Overall, savor and enjoy the food that you eat!
  2. Exercise: Exercise during quarantine can look very different from your previous workout routine. With gyms being closed, people are finding new ways to move their bodies and stay active. Some ideas include
    • Walking/jogging
    • Riding bikes
    • Online workout Classes

    Exercise increases the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, the happy neurotransmitter. Therefore, exercise can decrease your stress levels and improve your mood! Your routine should incorporate both cardio and strength training for optimal results. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy and get moving!

  3. Social Support: Social support is important in these times because it promotes mental and physical health as well as increases post-surgery outcomes. Social support satisfies the need for intimacy and communication with others while also increasing our self-esteem. Your social support can be your family, friends, church community, or neighbor. With social distancing in effect, it has become increasingly difficult to communicate with your support system. Some ideas to stay connected while still staying 6 feet apart include:
    • Phone calls
    • Video calls
    • Social distancing walks
    • Writing letters
    • Outside meetings

    Stay connected but stay safe!

  4. Other Important Items in your Closet:
    • Vitamin/mineral supplements: Vitamins are essential to your overall health after surgery. Changes in the body’s absorption leave bariatric patients at an increased risk for osteoporosis, disrupted coordination, and even paralysis. Therefore, it is vital to stick to a vitamin regimen. Set reminders in your phone, have an accountability partner remind you, or store your vitamins in a place where you will see them in the morning. Make taking your vitamins a part of your daily routine!
    • Doctors appointments: Attending your doctors appointments is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Doctors appointments are important because they help to monitor for any potential problems you might experience.  Remember, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Therefore, it is important to attend psychology appointments as well. These appointments offer support, monitor post-surgery issues, and provide resolutions for many problems that you may be experiencing.  If going out during this time makes you uncomfortable, try and schedule a telemedicine or drive-up appointment!
    • Mindfulness: Being mindful of your emotions, reactions, and choices plays a big role in your health journey, especially during quarantine. It is important to be aware of your feelings.  Try breathing exercises, meditation, reading, calling a friend, going outside, or exercising. These strategies can help you clear your mind and see the situation from a new perspective. Another mindfulness technique is to write down your goals, short-term and long-term! This is a way to see your goals daily and motivate you to try and achieve them. Mindfulness also includes self-care and acceptance. Being aware of how you take care of yourself and how you see yourself are important for mental health and self-esteem.

The important thing to remember while cleaning out your closet is to be kind to yourself and to ask for help if you need it. Support during stressful times like this is vital to a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to tackle everything in your closet at once. Work on one item at a time and decide if it is beneficial for your mental, emotional, and physical health or if you should take it out of your closet. You are not alone! Cleaning out your closet can be intimidating and time-consuming, but when you see the results, you will see the value!

Emily Martin is a rising junior at Clemson University where she majors in food science and human nutrition. She plans for a future career as a registered dietitian and has been volunteering with the dietitians of the MUSC Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery Program.