How Television Host Tommy Didario Is Adapting His Regimen To COVID-19
Tommy Didario is a television host and on-air lifestyle expert who has appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, The Today Show, and Entertainment Tonight. He covers everything from celebrity interviews to human interest stories to lifestyle topics in the fashion, trends, grooming, travel, health, fitness, and wellness worlds.
We spoke to Didario about how his formerly regimented lifestyle has been changed by the COVID-19 outbreak and how he's doing his part to slow its spread.
1. What was your life like before we learned about COVID-19, in terms of your self-care and maintaining a sense of well-being?
I was very regimented. I get up at 5:30 a.m. every day, and I do a 20-minute yoga session. Then I'd head to the gym for a workout and come back to have breakfast before getting to work. With my work, which is in the entertainment/lifestyle business, I never know what the day is going to look like, so getting my core "me" time in early on is key. And living in New York City, I crave my outdoor time, so I'd make a point to walk to any meetings that might be a 20-minute or less walk. I also enjoyed writing for fun or work—it was a creative outlet for me—and reading. Eating healthfully with a balanced diet was also important.
2. Before COVID-19, what did you most struggle with in terms of self-care?
Something I was constantly working on was making sure I was present with people and situations. In my line of work it's very "go, go, go," and I'd catch myself focusing on what was next. That was a big goal I had set for 2020.
3. If you can remember, where were you when you first learned about COVID-19 as being a real threat to us in North America? What were your initial impressions?
I remember hearing about it in January, that there was a mysterious new virus circulating and that airports were just beginning to screen passengers, but I wasn't in panic mode yet. I remember wanting to know more, but I never thought it would lead to canceled trips or businesses closing. I guess I just assumed things would pass. Now it's like a 9-1-1 call, and everyone needs to take it seriously. It really upsets me now to see people not taking it seriously—we need all hands on deck now.
4. What sorts of things have you put into practice now, from a "public health" point of view to help lower the risk of COVID-19?
Right now I'm really not leaving my apartment. If I get groceries, I get two weeks' worth at a time. Washing my hands, wiping things down often. That sort of thing.
5. How has "self-isolation" or "social distancing" affected your sense of well-being? This includes physically, emotionally, and your relationships.
It's been tough because, for instance, gym time was my alone time, and I stopped going even before they shut it down. Do I miss my routine? 100%! I'm doing my part to stay inside, as that's the only way we can slow this virus down.
At the beginning, I had this moment of "how am I going to do this?" but now I'm really not trying to focus on the downsides because if I do, I know I'd spiral into the negativity. Instead I'm trying to set up my days with structure and stay in touch with friends and family. We know that social media has negative effects, but right now I've seen a lot of the positive effects and how it helps people connect more, more than they usually would. In terms of my relationships, they haven't changed much except that I talk to people more and have more meaningful conversations with friends now. Everyone wants to get our minds off things and ask how we are genuinely doing. So having that deeper one-on-one connection has been really helpful. It's been great as a reminder of how to make the time.
6. What have you most struggled with during this time?
I live in Manhattan and in an apartment, so I don't have the luxury of going into a backyard. The idea of not being able to go outside right now is tough, literally not being able to feel fresh air on my face is tough.
7. Do you have any ideas, resources, tips, tricks, or advice that you've put into practice to optimize your well-being and that you'd feel comfortable sharing with readers?
The first is sticking to a routine. I don't think it's wise, for instance, to sleep all morning and watch news all day or drink all day. We need to stick to as much normalcy as we can, so if you're used to getting up early, get up at that time. If you're used to working out, still make time to do it.
The second is finding ways to be creative, so using this time to work on projects you've always wanted to do in your field. For me, I launched a digital talk show that will be on Instagram Live and YouTube, as a way to do meaningful work. It keeps me in tune with my career and keeps me busy all day. It's also a great feeling to put something out there to benefit society.
The last thing is to take advantage of all of the fitness apps out there: It can help you stay motivated as well as feeling part of a community.
8. What have you learned most about yourself (and your family, if you choose to share) during this time? How do you believe you have grown/will grow through this?
I've realized I'm more adaptable than I ever thought I could be. I'm a "type A" personality, so I'm very scheduled and regimented, but I haven't let this shake me. I didn't panic. I kind of quickly formed a game plan for how to get through these next few weeks. I chose to be proactive, and while things are obviously not ideal, I learned that I had a strong sense that I'd get through. I made a conscious decision to suit this new reality, and I never considered myself the most flexible person before but realize I can be.
9. Any piece of advice, a quote, anything motivational that you'd like to share for our readers?
We can wake up every day and choose to feel sorry for ourselves, or we can choose to better ourselves in a variety of ways. It's worth asking how you want to remember your time in self-isolation. You can say, "I woke up and was depressed, watched TV, etc." or that "when I was in isolation, I accomplished X, Y, Z; I did good work and turned a really hard situation into a positive."
10. What makes you most hopeful right now?
I've seen people coming together in really beautiful ways—from shopping for the elderly to checking in on neighbors. In New York City, most of us don't really know our neighbors, and now suddenly everyone's watching out for each other, which is great. This horrific virus has actually brought our country closer together in a way: People who wouldn't ordinarily talk to each other are talking; political parties are putting aside their differences for the betterment of humanity. I haven't seen this level of closeness since post 9/11, and I can only imagine what will happen when everyone's out and about when this ends: I think it will feel like a much more united country.
Amitha Kalaichandran, M.D., M.H.S., C.P.H., is an epidemiologist, physician, and writer. Kalaichandran graduated from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a master's in Health Science, received her M.D. from the University of Toronto, and completed fellowships at the University of Arizona and the Munk School of Global Affairs.
She has additional certifications in public health from the National Board of Public Health Examiners and humanitarian assistance from the Harvard Humanitarian Institute. As a speaker, Kalaichandran has been invited to present for wide-ranging audiences, from Stanford University's MedX in Palo Alto, California to South by SouthWest in Austin, Texas.
Her research interests are primarily focused on the use of complementary health approaches in children (and the perceptions of efficacy and risk), pediatric food intolerance and allergy, and the role of hospital organizational culture as a determinant of well-being and productivity among trainee and early-career physicians.
As a regular contributor to the New York Times Well section since 2017, Kalaichandran covers a diverse range of topics, from health and wellness to medical education. In addition to the New York Times, her award-winning writing has been featured in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Wired, and The Boston Globe (among many others). She is a 200-hr registered yoga teacher of both adults and children and a mindfulness facilitator. Kalaichandran enjoys adventure, mentorship, recipe experimentation, practicing yoga and mindfulness, voraciously reading, and advocating for a better world as she divides her time between New York City and Toronto. She is currently working on her first book.