Ep 2: Getting back on track with healthy habits after lockdown

1 Apr 2022 PODCAST

Life after lockdown can sometimes be overwhelming if your habits have taken a downward turn during the lockdown. Today Louie and Jess talk to resident Dr. C. about how to get back on track with diet, exercise, mindset, and goal setting. 

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The information shared on this podcast is not designed to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any condition and is for information purposes only - please discuss any information in this podcast with your health care professional before making any changes to your current lifestyle.


Jessica: Welcome to Flip the Script Podcast, where we flip the narrative on issues that affect men's health.

Louie: Our aim is to talk about the weird, the wonderful, and perhaps the unspoken issues that affect men, so you can feel empowered and back to living your best life.

Jessica: Let's get into it. Louie: Welcome to Flip the Script Podcast. We've got Jess here.

Jessica: Hello.

Louie: And Dr. C.

Dr C: Hey, hey.

Louie: In today's topic, we are going to be talking about how to get back on track with healthy tips after lockdown.

Jessica: Yes. I feel like this is so needed right now because we're going into summer, events are coming out. We want to look good. We're going to the beach. We're getting our bodies out, but we might have created some not-so-great habits during lockdown. Is there anything that you did that you probably want to change, Louie?

Louie: Yeah. I probably would've exercised a bit more.

Dr C: Definitely. I'm in the same category there of-

Louie: Yeah. The hour exercise a day, it was zero. Yeah. Dr C: Yes. Yes. Yes. Jessica: That was the only thing keeping me sane. I needed it.

Louie: Oh, no. It's all right. I've got two kids so they kept me entertained. I wouldn't say sane, but entertained was good. Yeah.

Dr C: Well, it's interesting you said keeping yourself sane, because I know one of the other bad habits that people did to keep their sanity was eat all kinds of delivery and takeaway. Probably not the healthiest things, but it again, was keeping them sane.

Louie: Or is it? I mean, if they overindulge even in chocolate and wine, isn't that also-

Dr C: Yeah. Definitely. It's the whole thing of like, look, a glass here or there is not too bad, but if you're downing a bottle every night, that's probably not a good thing.

Jessica: Yeah. Maybe time to take a good look at yourself and figure out what essentially you want in life. I want to talk a little bit about what you see in the clinic, because have you seen a bit of a influx of people with certain issues coming out of lockdown? I mean, I definitely can see that we've all dealt with a bit of stress and anxiety and overwhelm.

Jessica: There's a lot of uncertainty out there, but is there some other things that are coming out of lockdown that you're seeing a lot more diseases or things that might be reversible that people could do with diet and lifestyle?

Dr C: Weight gain is probably the most common thing that we've seen at that end, partly because of things like poor exercise, poor diet for months now. That's definitely one of the big things there. You've got things like previously known bad habits having gotten much worse. Things like smoking, drinking alcohol, even things like gambling, to an extent, and also even just how much you're actually getting out of the house.

Dr C: At the more extreme end of things, as more of secondary functions to these two things like poor habit, poor diet, poor exercise, you definitely have started to see things where people have got higher rates of not just stress, but things like proper depression, anxiety. That's definitely gone up.

Dr C: Things like the rates of heart disease itself hasn't been clearly documented, but at least in the verbal chatter between doctors, we all have been seeing and hearing more and more people coming up with just more significant issues here, whether it be something as simple as cholesterol levels being higher or sugar levels being more disturbed. These things definitely have happened during lockdown.

Jessica: There are things that you can do to reverse this, or there are things that you can do to help this, especially with cholesterol. I mean, obviously we know that high cholesterol leads to heart conditions, high sugar, inflammation, et cetera, lead to diabetes. What are some of the things that we can do in our diet and our lifestyle to help?

Dr C: I think the really key thing here is part of what you said, that it's not that the heart disease has caused the issue. It's that the diet, exercise and lifestyle that that leads to the issue. Once you understand that it's a stepwise system here, that one leads into the other, then that tells you that that's where I can attack the issue.

Dr C: As long as you haven't sort of let things go completely out the window and you have tripled your weight and had a heart attack, as long as you haven't got to those points, by and large, at least what's happened to us over lockdown, it should be reversible. It's just going to take some time and effort.

Jessica: Like you said, there are a few different places that lead you to that point.

Dr C: Yes.

Jessica: It's about maybe tackling one thing at a time. Obviously, if we're looking at food, what are some simple food swaps that people can do?

Dr C: Food is probably one of the hardest things because people will always want to eat what they think tastes great.

Jessica: Yes.

Dr C: The challenge usually is rather than telling people, "You need to eat your five fruit and veg and all those kinds of things." Yes, we want you to do that, but the real challenge is finding things that people will actually like to eat and things taste well.

Dr C: One of the good things about lockdown is that a lot of us, while we were having lots of takeaway and delivery, which probably wasn't the best for us, a lot of us tried a lot of different cuisines that are out there. If you found something that you thought was really interesting, or that you really wouldn't mind trying more of, there's lots of recipes you can look up online for many different cuisines out there.

Dr C: A lot of these more, either traditional cuisines or homemade specialties that don't require seven kilos of oil, they're generally speaking pretty good for us and generally have a much better balance in terms of what's in them than just having mashed potatoes every night.

Jessica: Would you say that there are specific cuisines or different types of cuisines that are better for your heart health than your-

Dr C: The generic one that we will always talk about as far as us doctors, is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet, partly because it has a very high ratio of vegetables in it, and partly because there's not that much else that goes into it other than some veggies and a small amount of meat. Then that's all seasoned with things that aren't in ... Again, they're not in large quantities of being things that are bad for you. Yes, there's a little bit of oil in it, but again, it's not-

Jessica: It's like olive oil.

Dr C: Exactly.

Jessica: It's the better oils.

Dr C: Exactly.

Jessica: Yeah. It's not processed. I think that's another thing.

Dr C: Exactly.

Jessica: If you require a manufacturing plant, then you're losing a lot of the essential nutrients that are supposed to be in there.

Dr C: Yeah.

Jessica: I guess it actually is quite easy. You just keep it simple.

Dr C: Pretty much. Things like your salads that are amazing. You can put whatever flavors that you like into it. If it's just a case of you haven't found something that you've liked yet, that doesn't mean that you won't. It just means you have to keep trying and have your look.

Jessica: Yeah. I think it is worth it.

Dr C: Yes. Definitely.

Jessica: Because just tying back to these diseases like diabetes and heart attacks, it doesn't just affect one aspect of your body. It does also affect ... As men, we all know that it actually affects your sexual dysfunction as well.

Dr C: Definitely. Things like diabetes and smoking, which are endpoints of having bad lifestyle, bad diet choices. What we know that this does is it shrinks blood vessels. It makes your blood vessels a lot more stiff and that makes it much harder to get blood to the parts that want the blood when you want to have sex. If you don't control these things at an earlier stage, the amount that we're going to be able to treat at a later stage does become a lot harder.

Louie: Okay. We mentioned that there are things that we can do with our food, that we can maybe change, manipulate, better oils that we can use and you touched on smoking as another thing. If we get our eating right, cut down on the smoking and the alcohol, what's the easiest way to get back into training then?

Dr C: The easiest way to get back into training is always the hard first step of just get started. The first step is always the most challenging to actually get yourself out there and get yourself doing it.

Dr C: If you're finding that really hard, because you find you're unmotivated, you've got 70 different distractions and you just don't really feel like you're up to it on the day, having someone to go with works wonders, whether that's friends, your partner, a lot of people even find just taking their kids out to the park and having to chase after them for a day does wonders in terms of getting that training just started. Louie: Yeah. That sort of with just starting, little things like that, and then changing the way you're eating, your energy levels should be increasing.

Dr C: Yeah. Yeah. Look, it may take you a little while for that energy difference to really be noticeable. You might feel like for the first week or two that every time you're going to the gym, you're absolutely dead tired, but there does come a point where that stops being the case. Your body is now functioning a bit better. It's better able to use oxygen. It's better able to use the sugar stores that it has in it to pump things around better.

Dr C: Then you find like you're actually getting a little bit more energy throughout the day that you can do a lot more during the day. It can take a week or two to get there, but you will get there as long as you stick with it.

Jessica: I think I like what you said about making it fun, like making this whole process fun. Okay. With the food, all right, I'm going to learn a new skill. I'm going to get super into it. I think cooking at home is a real big thing.

Dr C: Definitely.

Jessica: Because if you are always getting takeout, you really don't know all the stuff that they've hidden in that.

Dr C: No. Jessica: Getting back onto training, I definitely agree, you need somebody to keep you accountable because motivation that only gets you so far, and that discipline as well, self-discipline sometimes can only get you so far, but what are those things that you can do to keep you accountable? Whether that is, you always have your friend there.

Jessica: You're both saying, "You know what? I've put on a bit of weight. I feel like I'm getting in the danger zone with maybe some prediabetes/heart problems. Let's just both keep each other accountable." Or, I personally love going to my gym because you have to book into the classes and they'll charge you if you end up canceling too late.

Jessica: I find like I'm naturally just always wanting to show up. Once you get there and you train, you're like, "Oh my God, this feels good." Because no matter what, you are releasing those endorphins. You're feeling good. Then you start to look good and then you're like, "Yeah."

Louie: What would be the best exercises? If you've put on that much weight, you're feeling lethargic. You really don't even have the motivation. When you go to the gym, typically, what guys are going to do, go straight to that weight section.

Dr C: That actually is a little bit of an issue. Whenever you go to the weight section to do anything at the gym, what you're working on is how you'd look, but in terms of getting better energy levels and being able to actually do more throughout the day, you need to work on your heart.

Dr C: You need to work on your cardio, whether that's jumping on the bikes, going for long walks on the treadmills, jumping on the steppers, these long-form exercises that are really designed to get your heart rate pumping, get the blood flow happening, get the oxygen circulating around, that is what really helps you to get you to actually to feel like you've got more energy through the day. Jessica: You would say that it's a bit of a combination of both.

Dr C: Definitely. Jessica: Not just looking at things very singularly.

Dr C: Yes. Yeah.

Jessica: Because obviously we know with weight training is really important for fat burning up to eight hours after you train. Yeah. It's just about looking at more than just one thing.

Dr C: Yeah. Yeah. If you're only focused on one arm, you're only going to get one decently chunky arm. If you want your whole body to look good, you're going to have to do a bit more.

Louie: Around gym and the diet, I know a lot a lot of guys, they use pre-workout, even got the protein shakes, maybe meal replacements as well to sort of reduce how much they're eating. What's a better diet? When you're going and you're doing gym cardio to lose weight, what's a better diet?

Dr C: This is again where we stick with the ... We as doctors will generally always go with very simple things of you just want a simple well-balanced well-rounded diet that covers all the major food groups and make sure you're getting a good level of nutrition. The Mediterranean diet is one of the most well-known for hitting all of these things very easily, but a lot of different cultures have their own variations of this.

Dr C: You can usually find something, especially if you come from a different background, your country's version of its ideal healthy diet so that you don't have to go out and learn 70 new things if you don't want to.

Jessica: Another aspect that we talked about was habits and having that accountability, but let's delve a little bit deeper into mindset, because I think underlying all this, we all have the desire. We all have the desire to eat better. We all have the desire to stop the habits that are holding us back, exercising a bit more. How does our mindset come into play with achieving these results?

Dr C: Mindset is a really big thing. You want to have a goal to work towards, whether that goal is that bikini body that you want, or that goal is how long you want to last in the bedroom, whatever it is. You want to have a goal in mind, because that definitely does help to drive you, help to remind you that, "No, that's what I'm aiming for." The other way to look at this though, is sometimes having that goal seems too far off. It seems like you're really struggling to get there.

Dr C: The other really successful thing that we find is incentive-based training where you say that, "Look, I know in the long term, I want to get to point Z, but in the short term, if I can get to point A to B to C, I'm going to do something that I enjoy." Now, you don't want this to be, "I'm going to go out and drink a bottle of wine again."

Louie: It's not a cheat day.

Dr C: No. Ideally actually you don't do cheat days. You find some fun activity that you'd like to do and you use that as your reward. I really like to go watch movies. That was what helped get me to the gym a lot, was just, if I go to the gym three times a week, then I'm allowed to go see a movie this week.

Jessica: Love it.

Louie: Okay. You're basically rewarding yourself.

Dr C: Exactly. Exactly. As long as the incentive is something that you'll actually enjoy and ideally not something that's bad for you.

Jessica: Yeah. Not feeding the habit-

Dr C: Exactly.

Jessica: ... that got you there in the first place.

Dr C: Yeah.

Jessica: I think I also like the idea of what you were saying around having that goal. It's having that why. Why are you actually even doing this? I think that helps you every time that you want to not do it. All right. What is my why?

Dr C: Definitely.

Jessica: That gives you that sense of purpose, but then also understanding about chunking down those goals. It's not this one overbearing, hairy, vivacious goal. All right. Let's break it down to step A. Maybe step A is, "Okay. I'm smoking a packet a day. I'm just going to reduce it slightly. Step B. All right. Once I've solved the smoking thing, I'm moving into maybe alcohol or whatever it is." You're just making it less overbearing and overwhelming.

Dr C: We tend to use an acronym called SMART when we talk about goal-setting, where you want your goals to always be something that is clearly specific, it's not just, "I want to exercise more." You want it to be measurable to say, "I want to exercise for half an hour." You want it to be attainable. You don't want to say, "I'm going to go and run the marathon tomorrow."

Dr C: It needs to be something that is somewhat realistic for you to do. Then you want it to be ... As part of the attainable I think you want it to be again realistic within your timeframes and then your T is time-based to say, "Okay. I want to make sure that I'm going to the gym three times a week to do at least this much cardio and this much weight training and I want to make sure that I hit that every week."

Dr C: That is a clear goal and easy to keep reminding yourself to do. It also has inbuilt into it you're not making something, or you shouldn't be making something that's impossible for you to do. It shouldn't be something that breaks you by saying, "I'm never going to get to that." It should be something that, "Look, I can definitely do this."

Dr C: Sometimes it takes a little bit of shaping to get it to a point where you do get to that, but having this kind of system definitely makes it a lot easier.

Jessica: I love that. Even today, if you got a bit of time, just sit down, write it down, put it up on the fridge. Tell your friends.

Louie: It's definitely good to have it up on the fridge I think. When it's visual, you're always walking past it and especially the fridge.

Jessica: Yeah. You see it. Louie: When you're opening, "Oh, maybe not today."

Jessica: Yeah.

Dr C: I have reminders set on my phone that message me three times a week of, "It's time to go to the gym. It's time to go to the gym. It's time to go to the gym."

Louie: Do you press snooze?

Dr C: No. Well, I did for the first few weeks. I've been a bit better about it for the last few at least.

Louie: That's good. Yeah. Because you don't want to stay in your comfort zone. I mean, it's great.

Dr C: It is.

Jessica: It's comfy.

Louie: It's comfortable. It's safe.

Dr C: But see, no, that's the problem. It's comfortable, but it's not necessarily safe. Just because you feel like everything is relaxed and everything is calm, that doesn't mean your body on the inside isn't suffering. The way you can tell that your body is suffering comes to how you actually function when you're not just doing what's in your safe zone, whether it's being able to go for a walk around the block and finding, "I'm out of breath now."

Louie: Or chasing the kids in the backyard.

Dr C: Exactly. Or getting to the bedroom and going, "Wait, no, this isn't working the way it used to." All of these things, they're telling you that if you've just been staying in your comfort zone, your comfort zone isn't really working for your body.

Jessica: Your comfort zone is really a disguise really. It's not actually your comfort zone. You think it's your comfort zone until it pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Dr C: More or less. Yeah.

Jessica: Yeah. I guess the whole point of it is short-term uncomfortability for long-term goodness. You're going to feel great and also you're going to be proud of yourself because you've achieved something, because these small, measurable, SMART goals make you feel good.

Dr C: That's arguably the biggest thing with any kind of goal-setting, because you can see yourself achieving your goals, that boosts self-confidence. When you're constantly feeling like, "Yes, I can do things." That reduces stress levels. That reduces anxiety. It makes you more willing and more keen to keep trying and pushing yourself to go further and further and further.

Dr C: Look, I realize some people push themselves way too far, way too quickly, but having that kind of drive and having that kind of external motivation by achieving the goals, that can really help your day-to-day lives in many, many ways.

Jessica: Yeah. That's great. I think there's a lot of really good little nuggets that people can take away from this. I think it's something we all experience, even though you may look at people and go, "Oh my God, they're just healthy. It's so easy." No, it's not.

Dr C: It's really not.

Jessica: Yeah. I think it's now just about taking these small measurable steps, getting back on track and feeling good. Thank you so much, Dr. C. Always a pleasure having you on the podcast.

Dr C: Happy to be here.

Jessica: Thanks, Louie. If you liked this podcast today, please rate, leave a review. If you think there's somebody that will definitely take value from it, please share it with them. Of course, if there's anything you'd like us to speak on the podcast, please email us at info@optimalehealth.com.au. Thank you.

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