Maria Allshouse

Courtesy of Crystal Marie Notaro Photography

Maria Allshouse

As if COVID-19 weren’t causing enough problems, there may be the matter of stepping on the scale.

“People who are working from home right now, they’re used to structure in an office. They’re used to their 8-to-5,” South Fayette healthy lifestyles coach Maria Allshouse said.

These days, they’re just steps away from the kitchen, “and that’s where the mindless eating comes into play,” she said.

Allshouse, whose certifications include fitness trainer and fitness nutritionist by International Sports Sciences Association, recently presented a program on “How to Maintain Healthy Living” as part of South West Communities Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook Live Wellness Series.

For those who have noticed their waistbands tightening while COVID-19 wreaks havoc on their usual routines, she provided some advice.

“Stop in the moment and recognize what you’re feeling. Am I really hungry? Or am I bored? Maybe I’m dehydrated because I didn’t drink enough water today,” she said. “Be more mindful about your decisions, because it’s really easy to go into the kitchen and grab the Oreos versus a piece of fruit. Right?”

Choosing the former over the latter affects more than what registers on the scale.

“The energy crash that we get from the highly processed foods is not going to help you with the stress, either. It’s going to cause you to be more tired, less energy, more irritable, more moody,” Allshouse said. “So really try to fuel your body with more nutrient-dense foods, like nuts, whole grains, protein, low-fat dairy, those types of things.”

You may be thinking, sure, that’s easy for her to say. But consider that a decade ago, she weighed 130 pounds more than she does now.

“I was one of those individuals who constantly fought my weight all my life, from childhood to teenage to adolescence to young adult, all the way through my adulthood until I was 43 years old,” she said.

At that point, an unfortunate experience with her son at Kennywood Park prompted her to make what she calls one simple decision: “This truly had to be a lifestyle change.

“Was it a perfect road? Absolutely not. I fought many obstacles along the way,” she said. “But you have to make that decision: Am I going to let these obstacles stop me again? Am I going to throw my hands up in the air and say, ‘Forget it,’ and go back on that yo-yo diet?”

Three years ago, she started her healthy lifestyle coaching and corporate wellness business, and the South West Communities Chamber named it Best Woman-Owned Business of the Year for 2019.

For her clients, she generally recommends taking a bigger picture into consideration.

“I try to think about not solving the problem of, I have to lose weight because of ‘X,’” she said. “I try to look at in a positive spin of: What’s this going to bring into my life if I take these steps to start to mindfully make some changes?”

The benefits go beyond numbers of pounds.

“Maybe it’s going to give you more energy,” Allshouse said. “Maybe it’s going to be less pressure on your joints. Maybe it’s going to give you more confidence. Maybe your clothes are going to fit better. So then, how’s that going to make you feel?

“Then we take it to the next level: OK, what am I going to have to do on a daily basis to get to that desired outcome?” she continued. “And that’s where the habit of behavioral change comes into play, in terms of recognizing your triggers.”

COVID-19 may have contributing to making triggers more prevalent than usual, and Allshouse suggests coming to terms with the reality at hand.

“Give yourself some grace,” she said. Our lives changed so fast in such a short amount of time that nobody really had time to process all of it.”

And keep everything in perspective.

“I’m not saying we have to be angels, by any means. I still enjoy the simple pleasures in life,” she said. “You have to. We’re human.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!