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DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: I know it’s Easter… but try to resist a chocolate (and wine) overload

Just like most other families, the Mosleys have been in lockdown for the past three weeks. There are four of us, including my wife Clare, one of our sons, Dan, 25 – who has recently recovered from Covid-19 – and our daughter, Kate, 19, who is back from university.

We are very fortunate that the house is big enough, and we have a garden, so we don’t feel cooped up.

But to keep sane, we have created a fairly strict routine, because I do believe a good routine really is the key to getting through this.

Not surprisingly, we are trying to eat as healthily as possible but this is harder than it sounds. There is a huge temptation, when you are stressed, to eat lots of comfort food, such as biscuits and chocolate. I certainly do.

Dr Michael Mosley, pictured with his son Dan at home trying to cook healthily during the continuing Covid-19 lockdown

Dr Mosley warns against eating too many Easter eggs during the lockdown when opportunities for exercise are limited

Dr Mosley warns against eating too many Easter eggs during the lockdown when opportunities for exercise are limited

It is not just psychological. It is also a response to rising levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

When your cortisol levels go up, this not only increases your appetite but also increases your urge for comfort foods.

Numerous studies have shown that people who are stressed seek foods that are high in sugar and fat.

In the short term, these foods do seem to dampen stress responses, but over time they have the opposite effect.

The occasional treat won’t do you much harm but a recent surge in the consumption of biscuits, sales of which went up by 54 per cent in the first three weeks of March, suggest they have become more than occasional for many Britons.

The problem with eating lots of comfort food is that you will soon start piling on the pounds. It will be like Christmas, but without the fun. Succumbing to temptation will not only make your waist expand but will also raise your blood sugar levels, and your blood pressure, which is bad news for your immune system and your mood.

Piling on weight around your waist and neck will also lead to more snoring, which will have a major impact on your sleep.

But with possibly more time on your hands at home, this is a great opportunity to try new recipes. One of the ways we have been whiling away the hours has been by testing and then filming one of us cooking something new.

He also suggested that seeking solace in a bottle of wine is also not good for your health

He also suggested that seeking solace in a bottle of wine is also not good for your health 

To be fair, the recipes are mainly dreamt up by Clare, who created the recipes for all our books. They are based largely on store-cupboard ingredients, such as tins, jars and frozen food. These can be just as nutrient-rich as fresh food and often easier to get your hands on.

We have taken it in turns to do the cooking. Dan has surprised me by being really very good at this, so if you are looking for a bit of inspiration, or simply want to see us in action, I recommend visiting Clare’s Instagram account, @drclarebailey.

We do indulge in some treats – Kate made a delicious raspberry and white chocolate cake. Not great for the waistline, but it was really tasty. Ideal for Easter tea.

Getting a good night’s sleep is hugely important for your mood and for your immune system.

Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are far more likely to get sick from viral infections. That is because while you are in deep sleep, your body produces crucial cytokines, proteins that target infections, as well as antibodies and killer T cells, which are vital for defending you from viruses.

In fact in a recent study, where researchers took blood samples from pairs of identical twins, they found that the twin who was getting less sleep had a depressed immune system, compared with his or her sibling.

Clare and I try to go to bed by 11pm and get up at 7am every day. For troubled sleepers, and I’m one of them, routine is essential. Because I am a lark (an early riser), I find it this easier than Clare, who is more of an night owl. Dan and Kate also have more owlish tendencies, but they have, somewhat reluctantly, bought into the importance of getting up at the same time every morning, in their case more like 8am.

Sticking to a regular exercise regime while you are in lockdown is tricky. When I wake up, the first thing I do is roll out of bed and do press-ups and squats, along with some sit-ups and the horrible plank. They only take a few minutes, but I know that if I don’t do them first thing then I won’t get round to doing them later.

The reason I do them is because preserving the muscles is hugely important, particularly when you get older. Unless you do something about it, after the age of 30 you start to lose about five per cent of your muscle mass every year. Muscles burn calories, even when you are resting, and doing resistance exercises will also improve your sleep.

I have read stories about people, in lockdown, running marathons around the kitchen table, or climbing the equivalent of Everest on the stairs, but I am not quite that fanatical.

We are lucky that we live right next to a wood and some open fields, so we’re going for an early-morning run or walk most days, with the dog.

Going out first thing means we are unlikely to meet anyone else, plus we get a dose of early-morning light which seems to be particularly important for resetting your circadian clock and improving the quality of your asleep.

At this time of year, it is also important to top up your Vitamin D levels.

A recent survey found that one in five of us is drinking more than normal, and sales of alcohol have rocketed over the past three weeks. With pubs and restaurants closed, it’s not surprising.

But heavy drinking is never a great idea. There are some 140 calories in a glass of wine and most people find that drinking in the evening disrupts their sleep. We are trying to stick to a 5:2 regime, where we drink only at weekends, though to be honest we break that rule more often than we should.

My biggest challenge has been trying not to obsess over the news. It is important to keep curious and to know what is going on in the world, but social media is plagued by fake news, which can be deeply disconcerting.

Even if you aren’t getting sucked into the strange, deluded world of online conspiracy theorists, too much time spent worrying about the coronavirus is likely to be bad for your mental health. So if you can restrict yourself, you should.

I have recently finished reading The Other Bennet Sister, by Janice Hadlow. It picks up the story of the Bennet sisters, as told in Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, but from the perspective of the least glamorous of them. I loved it, and a good book beats reading rubbish about mobile phone masts causing coronavirus any day.

 

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