The evolution of health and nutrition in relation to COVID-19

23rd June 2020

UKZN Extended Learning

– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase

South Africa has taken strong measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19, by implementing a number of restrictions and safety measures, such as self-quarantine regulations for travellers and temporary closing of “non-essential” businesses or services to name a few. Citizens are encouraged to stay at home by all means to flatten the curve. This leaves most families together all day, and the usual work or school routines disrupted. This can pose the potential risk of increased anxiety in these times of uncertainty thus knocking healthy eating and exercise down one’s list of priorities. Good nutrition while at home is crucial for overall health and wellbeing, however it is easy to fall in the trap of unhealthy eating habits and coping mechanisms.

We at UKZN Extended Learning can assist you in improving your lifestyle choices with our health-related webinars. These webinars took place in May and June and were facilitated by Professor Suna Kassier, Associate Professor at Dietetics and Human Nutrition in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the UKZN.

Professor Kassier explained in great detail on how lifestyle and behaviour play a pivotal role in nutrition during and beyond the lockdown. For a better understanding of the topic at hand, a background on why habits may have changed during the lockdown and making sure the attendees are equipped in reverting to healthier ways of living was essential. The concept of lifestyle and behaviour can be linked to many factors including aspects such a demographic profile and physical environment as well as psychological aspects.

The social learning theory was broken down into 3 simple steps which included the observation of behaviour and its consequences; remembering the sequence of events and using the information to guide subsequent behaviours (such as observing someone engage in a particular behaviour) and lastly “modelling’ this. In the case of health and nutrition, Professor Kassier used the example of sit-ups and seeing its effect on your waistline, your spouse may feel encouraged to do sit-ups as a result of witnessing a positive change in your physique.

The ABC of concepts was also discussed and aspects such as appetite; ‘blue light’; circadian rhythms; endorphins; habit; hunger; melatonin and physical activity were thoroughly explained. Some practical tips on snacking, overeating and under eating as well as shopping were shared. Minimizing trips to the store and planning before shopping is an effective measure in saving time and energy that could be used to reconnect with your family. Our guest speaker concluded this webinar with these wise words, “If you eat too much in addition to being inactive, there is going to be more of you to love with each passing day of lockdown”. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of your dietary habits concerning weight management.

At UKZN Extended Learning we are offering regular online webinars that covers aspects of our current reality. Click here to view our exciting line-up! Secondly, we are offering free online courses and are regularly partnering with organisations to increase the offerings available. Click here to view our latest offerings!

For more on this, please take a look at the recent health and well-being webinars:

Immunity, Nutrition and COVID-19: Separating Facts from Fiction click here

Healthy Eating and Living While Staying at Home click here

Obesity and Food Insecurity: Complexities Beyond an Overactive Fork and Underactive Foot click here

Health and Wellbeing: The role of Nutrition in Lifestyle during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic click here