Among all the other changes that COVID-19 has wrought, the way we think about our health – or rather, our concern for being healthy – is changing.
The Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) publicized some recent findings in late August, which among other things, found that 77 percent of consumers say they will make more attempts to stay healthy in the future.
Other findings from ADM “OutsideVoice” outlined some key behavioral shifts. Among those were an increased focus on the gut health and immune function connection, with 57 percent of consumers reporting more concern about their immunity; the mainstream of a plant-based diet with 18 percent of alternative protein buyers purchasing their first plant-based protein during COVID-19; a new perspective on weight management and metabolic health; and finding balance with regard to self-care, emotional wellbeing and nutrition.
The research is backed up with anecdotal evidence from Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest area.
Tracy Southwick, who founded Heights for Health, a naturopathic clinic on East 4th Street, said a significant number of clients have recently come their way as a result of mind-body-spirit research online as opposed to finding them through word of mouth, which was the norm.
“People are interested in the natural perspective, with regard to lifestyle (and) eating habits,” Southwick said. “They are looking for solutions.”
In addition to helping clients with tools to alleviate anxiety and stress, Southwick said Heights for Health also counsels them about supplements that can support the nervous system, like Vitamin B and magnesium, as well as other specific blends. Southwick also has been advising clients about what to avoid. No. 1 on the list is sugar, which has inflammatory properties and suppresses the immune system.
Multiple area residents said they have recently started taking vitamins or other supplements to boost health. Aside from the standbys like zinc, Echinacea and Vitamin C, there are some more uncommon supplements on people’s lists.
Rob Harlow is taking a mushroom supplement that contains Chaga.
“They gave it to us troops overseas as an antioxidant,” Harlow said. “(It) seemed to cut down on the spread of diseases and boosts immunity.”
One way to get needed nutrients is of course through food, and local residents say they are rethinking how they eat, too.
“Since I’m staying at home 95 percent of the time I’m trying new healthy recipes,” Jeannette Black said. “Cooking more beans and soups, things that take longer to cook.”
Mark Zoch owns The Dinner Dude, which offers grab-and-go gourmet, health-conscious meals and also delivers them to 300 zip codes in Houston and surrounding areas.
Zoch said that while normally July and August are slow months for the business, not so this year.
“We definitely have seen increased business,” Zoch said.
He said some of it is attributable to the “COVID 15,” as in pounds gained during the pandemic, but part of it is a new awareness that eating well and taking care of your health can help you beat COVID-19 as well as other illnesses.
Barbie Atkinson with Catalyst Counseling is seeing an uptick in clients who are looking to nourish their spirit.
“When our usual coping skills are gone or not within reach, like friends, sports (or) traveling, our behaviors can be maladaptive and we will be ‘forced’ to look within,” Atkinson said. “This pandemic has really had us looking closely at our ‘ships. Relationships, partnerships, kinship, and friendships.”
Interestingly, it’s not just the therapist office where big emotions are being processed.
Jonathan Kolmetz with Oaks Wealth Management said his business is having more conversations about mental and physical health than the client’s portfolio.
“COVID-19 has caused a storm of mental and financial health issues that we work with our clients on daily,” he said.
Some residents say the attitude shift they have come to embrace is most welcome. Oak Forest resident Amber Ambrose said the pandemic has helped her to find her reset.
“I keep a gratitude journal, have gratitude accountability partners where we share three unique things each day – they cannot be the same from any days before – with each other that we’re thankful for,” Ambrose said. “I started thinking about all the reasons I loved my job, my life – exactly in the way it is, not the way I wished it was – and started doing whatever it was that I could do to amplify those in my mind and during work.”