It was an innocent donation at a local blood bank. I thought it was pretty cool when I learned that they test for Covid antibodies when you give blood. So out of curiosity, I logged into the blood bank about a week later to see if I had been exposed to Covid. I had not, but what I did find out was that I had high cholesterol—the news I’d been dreading. I’d been waiting for it. My family history is loaded full of heart attacks. I love meat, cheese, and butter. I love food, in general! I mean, it is a favorite pastime for me. I like cooking. I like eating out. Then Covid hit, and I hit the chips. Stress eating — Cheetos, Doritos, Gardetto’s, all of the toes! 

At the beginning of Covid, especially, I was under a lot of stress from fear. I worried about the safety of my kids, my Mom, my husband, myself. What if I died from this? In New York, people were dropping dead so fast they had nowhere to put the bodies. Doctors and nurses were stressed out and crying. For an extended period, I considered my mortality. I wondered what would happen to my girls without my financial support, my emotional support? What happened if my Mom caught it, and I couldn’t fly out to Chicago to be with her? I was horrified by those scenes of people dying alone in hospitals, with no family around them. Wow, yeah, that was intense stress.

Then, there was the hoarding. I watched the virus make its way across the continent from Asia to Europe, then hit North America. I noticed the countries’ patterns that would go into lockdown, and we were about two weeks behind Italy. I told anyone who would listen to me that this was going to hit us next. I was shocked that nobody was taking it seriously. I told my friends that we would be locked down in two weeks, and I was right. I thought I better go to stock up on canned food, dry food, pasta, cereal, soup, peanut butter. I must admit, I did not see the toilet paper thing coming. I remembered the wartime stories that my Grandmother told me. She was a World War II survivor, and so my mind went there. What if this virus and lockdown that was sure to come our way would disrupt the food supply chain? More to worry about!

After lockdown, work was unbelievably busy. People are getting laid off, pivoting the business model to deal with restaurant closures. There was an aluminum can shortage. We were still going through our annual audit. With the extra work, days were long and just added to the stress. I was wondering if the company would survive. I was wondering if we would all lose our jobs. More stress to throw on the pile!

Now, add to that the homeschooling when schools shut down. My 8-year-old didn’t take it very well. She was such an outgoing kid and involved in dance, swimming, chorus, theater, and the Girl Scouts. All of that went, poof. And trying to learn on a computer?!? Ha! There were tears of sadness and frustration. I had to help prod her along while doing my day job, offer her motivation and emotional support while displaying my brave front and silly side to keep it together, and hide my fear.

How did I deal with all of this? How did I wash my brain with delightful cortisol so that I would feel better? Food, glorious food! And beer, cocktails, and a lot of wine to make myself even happier! I ate whatever and whenever I felt like it, without any limitations on myself. All of that added up to a significant number of calories, and even though I did a lot of yoga, the pounds started to pile on. And as a result, my poor choices led to high cholesterol. 

My doctor had given me a chance to lower it on my own through diet and a healthy lifestyle. I started out trying to do it on my own. I felt like I was starving myself (which made me even more cranky) for minimal reward. I needed some more help, so I downloaded a weight loss app. I set the goal intentionally high so that if I don’t hit it, no big deal. I needed that extra push, I think, to help me understand why I was sabotaging my thoughts, to work around the negativity and self-pity, and to have some support and accountability. I had to learn how to focus on healthy dieting without restricting any one food, how you can reward yourself with a gelato from time to time and still enjoy a meal out with friends and not give up the long view. So far, it is working well, and I’m enjoying the energy I feel and the time it is forcing me away from my desk. I am outside more often. I know what the sun looks like again. I feel strong!

If it’s one thing this virus has taught me, nothing should be taken for granted. Life needs to be lived to the fullest and to do that, health plays a critical role. Because I really would like to be around for a while. Eating junk and sitting around all the time is not going to achieve excellent health and probably just as dangerous as running around San Diego County without a mask in the middle of a pandemic.

The last thing I am learning about, more than anything else, is the key to success is to believe. If you believe in yourself, you will do what you set out to do. It is that simple!

By Dawn D

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