Corona Yo-Yo or Moderation

Much like yo-yo dieting, many parts of the country are on a yo-yo of closures

By San San Lee

Several years ago, I lost 50 pounds. After being diagnosed with high blood pressure, I realized it was time to take action.

It was hard.

It took me 11 months and I went down three sizes in jeans. My blood pressure also went down, and I was off the medication. To reduce the weight, I had to give up many things: wine, desserts, ribs, cheese, French fries, and many others that I used to indulge. I exercised regularly and did yoga. I got there by complying with the “rules.” One set of rules for permitted items to eat (mostly, vegetable and lean meats), and another with off-limits foods (fries and ice cream, etc.). I abandoned the prior “no rules” of eating it all. Back then, I thought I’d stick with my new weight-loss strategy, and then, I could go back to my old ways. By the time I lost the weight, I was sick and tired of steamed broccoli and baked chicken!

After 11 months of sticking with the rules, I no longer wanted to go through it again. I had worked too hard and felt great. With less weight, things got a lot easier. The weight-loss rules no longer applied, but if I went back to my old ways, I knew the weight would be back, and I would need to lose the weight or risk going back on blood pressure medication. I didn’t want to be another victim of yo-yo dieting.

At the same time, I also wanted to reintroduce the “forbidden” items, but how much and how often? I was a bit apprehensive at first. I knew that I couldn’t go back to my old ways or stay in weight loss mode forever. I had to find a “happy medium,” which required discipline and vigilance. To do that, I struggled to reconcile between how I lived my life before the weight loss and how I had to live to maintain my health. Often, I had to say “no” to another glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. It would have been easy to default to my old way of “eat it all,” but I had to let it go. I had to accept that things were different. I needed to develop new habits and live my life accordingly. I knew my desire to “eat it all” would hold me back from making sustainable progress, so I struggled to find a balance.

That was almost nine years ago, and I’ve kept the weight off. Over time, through hard work and persistence, the self-monitoring has become mostly automatic. Yet, the struggle to find the balance to keep the weight off was more difficult than losing the weight.

As I live through the pandemic, I see a similar struggle. It was easier when the “rules” were clear, much like the weight loss rules. In March, the lockdown required us to stay at home, limit our contact with others, wash our hands, wear face coverings, and maintain social distancing. We reduced the infection rate and the curve flattened. We waited for the reopening, hoping that the lockdown would be short-lived and our lives would go back to “normal.”

While the lockdown slowed the spread of the virus, it did not disappear. We knew that. When the country began to reopen in May, most Americans were apprehensive about the possible rise in the infection rate. The uneasiness was well-founded. Infection rates in our city, county, state, and other states around the country are skyrocketing. I also was concerned about the reopening because it was unclear what it would look like or mean. Would we be able to go back to the “old normal” or would our activities be restricted? It turned out for many, reopening meant that we could abandon the “weight loss” rules and go back to our old ways of “eat it all,” or more appropriately, “do it all,” rather than seek a balance. We were not prepared to reintegrate activities slowly and modify our pre-pandemic behaviors to develop new habits to ward off the spread of the virus.

The “do it all” behaviors returned during the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends, along with the “normalcy” of summer. It was as though we gorged after a fast, without regard for the inevitable consequences. Now, shutdowns are recurring, and we are back on a “diet” to starve the virus once more – a consequence of our over-indulgence.

Much like yo-yo dieting, many parts of the country are on a yo-yo of closures, reopening, partial closures, reopening, as the infection rates go up and down. According to various infectious disease experts, the yo-yo will likely continue unless we take personal responsibility and modify our behaviors to stop the spread of the virus.

So, where do we go from here?

The virus is very much with us and will likely be with us in the near term. Unfortunately, life is not a Hollywood movie – vaccines and cures do not appear overnight. Until a viable medical option is available, we must learn and adapt our behaviors to minimize the spread as we go about our day. We need to stop the yo-yo.

We must learn to live more cautiously, with vigilance and consideration for the health of others as well as ourselves. Much like a post weight-loss plan, we need to exercise moderation – engage in some pre-pandemic activities, but perhaps not as often and not in the same way, and in many instances, with caution and safeguards. Simply put, we need to follow the rules, even if it means giving up the past and sacrificing our desires. Many already do this, but given the rising infection rates, it’s clear that we need to do better.

Yes, it’s a bummer, and it takes work – but it’s a much better alternative than being on the Corona yo-yo.

click here for the Original Article in The South Pasadenan Newspaper


Reopening – A Good Time for Paranoia

‘Life must go on. Unfortunately, we are left to figure out how to navigate the reopening on our own’

By San San Lee

Birds are chirping, the sun is out, and the morning glories are flowering. Cool mornings and warm days – overcast skies as we move from spring to summer. A typical transition of seasons in LA. Every year, this is when my allergies act up, my eyes water, and I sneeze. “Pollution,” attributes my doctor. But, it’s different this year. My symptoms aren’t as bad, probably because the air quality is better. One of the unintended consequences of the stay-at-home order.

The stay-at-home order is easing, too. For some, this is a delightful development. For others, it comes with unease and concern for possible exposure and increased Covid-19 infections. Based on recent polls, a majority of Americans are at least somewhat (if not, very concerned) about the rise of infections as restrictions ease. I, too, am concerned.

While my workload is much less than the pre-pandemic level, I’ve been able to work from home. With the stay-at-home order and its restrictions, and more importantly, the dedication of essential workers, I’ve had the luxury to “hide out” from the virus in the safety of my home. That will change as things open. The reopening does not mean the virus is gone or that it has lost its contagious might. Life may become more precarious. Without the restrictions, we are no longer as protected and isolated from the virus. Reopening would mean more exposure to others, and therefore, the virus.

It appears though that some don’t see things this way. The behavior of the Memorial Day weekend at beaches, Eaton Canyon and other weekend and vacation spots are examples of that. It’s disturbing – the crowding, lack of social distancing, lack of masks, and frankly, just a lack of awareness that we are in the middle of a pandemic. It’s as though “reopening” equals the virus is gone and we’re free to party and celebrate! Health authorities are warning that precautions must be taken as infections continue to rise in many parts of the country. Yet, the lack of a consistent, clear and coherent message from governmental officials result in confusion, misinterpretations, arguments, haphazard behaviors, at a time when the need for precautions is paramount.

Life must go on. Unfortunately, we are left to figure out how to navigate the reopening on our own.

Back in March, right before the stay-at-home orders started to come down, I was texting back and forth with Tim, a friend in Barcelona. Spain’s shutdown, much stricter than ours, had just been imposed. We were discussing the likelihood that the US was next. He advised, “Don’t wait until the government tells you what to do. You know what you have to do.” Taking his advice, I started to wear face coverings whenever I went out. I had been reading about countries that were successfully warding off the spread. One thing stood out, people in those countries, whether required or not, were wearing face coverings in public. Although CDC only recommended face coverings for those with symptoms at that time, I decided to wear a mask anyway. I didn’t have any symptoms, but shielding my nose, mouth and portions of my face from the “droplets” of others had to be better than nothing. It made sense to me as an added precautionary measure to minimize exposure, especially when it was clear that our lives were to be disrupted dramatically. What’s a little more inconvenience for my safety and that of others?

Late to the game, CDC did not recommend face coverings until two weeks later, when it informed us that a significant number of transmissions occurs from asymptomatic individuals.

Tim’s advice is still very much appropriate in the context of reopening. Rather than relying on the government, I decided to assess the amount of risk I’m willing to accept for my own safety and those around me. My actions should not be driven or dictated by others. Instead, I have to set the rules and at times, make a case-by-case determination for myself.

I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone in this. Based on my discussions with others (via, email, text, zoom and phone calls), they are trying to figure it out, too. How and when do we begin to incorporate more social contact? If so, under what circumstances? Who can we trust? How stringent have they followed social-distancing and what is the level of their hygiene? How serious are they about the virus? What businesses are still on the “to go back to” list? Are they following the guidelines? Under what conditions would we go back to eating at a restaurant? If so, which ones do we trust to have our health as their number one priority?

In these discussions, I’m finding that we are also assessing each other’s quarantine habits to determine if the other person is “safe.” It’s like early stages of dating, getting the awkward questions and “must haves” out of the way to see if there will be a second date. Or, in the current context, is it safe to see each other in person?

Recently, my friend Nancy signed off her email with the hope that we can get together soon in person and added “six feet apart and with masks.” Another friend told me that he is choosing not to see his sister because she has been socializing with her friends in person during the quarantine. A friend with a dog was elated to hear that I hike with a mask because we can hike together with his dog while we both wear masks.

Assessing the risks can be difficult, messy, tedious, and complicated. In a recent Zoom call, an old friend reminded me of the discussions we used to have in the 1990s during the HIV epidemic, when we were both single and dating – not only are you having sex with a person but with every person he/she has had sex with. He then, asked “It’s really the same, isn’t it?” Not only are you having contact with a person, but every person he/she encounters. Ultimately, it becomes an exercise in calculated risk. How badly do you want to do something and how much risk are you willing to take? Bottomline, what is the value of your safety?

It’s sobering, but it’s necessary – at least for me. I passed on some dates back then, and I know that I will have to pass on seeing some people now – even if that means I can’t go to the places and events I that want to. At least, for the time being.

click here for the Original Article in The South Pasadenan Newspaper