How to Lose Weight During the Pandemic

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Are you overweight or obese? Easy way to find out is by measuring your height and girth. Your girth should be half the size of your height.

Studies have shown obesity is a significant factor for critical illness during COVID-19. Obesity was also an important factor for mortality in patients with COVID-19. This is most likely due to obese patients were known to have a defective immune system that makes them vulnerable to a type of infection that specifically require a prompt cellular immune response (Obes Res Clin Pract. 2020 July-August).

The current pandemic has changed people’s social life limiting outdoor activities. They gain weight. It is known as “Quarantine 15”. Many people have put on 15 or more pounds in weight during the last six months or so.

The weight gain is not a surprise if you have a sedentary lifestyle. With gyms closed and groceries delivered, it was easy to lounge around and eat. People working from home have additional stress of managing family and keeping up with work schedule. Binge eating, snacking and comfort eating was a psychologically verified response to stress.

Stress and depression are going to affect your weight. When you are under stress your body tries to protect you by not giving up any calories. Plus, you tend to eat more when you are depressed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe obesity increases the risk of a dangerous breathing problem called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is a serious complication of COVID-19.

Also, people with severe obesity are more likely to have other chronic diseases and health conditions that can increase the severity of COVID-19.

The immune response to infection is altered in overweight patients. We do not know how effective a COVID-19 vaccine will be for these individuals.

Losing five or 10 pounds during the pandemic is entirely possible. Weigh yourself at least once a week. People who weigh themselves are more likely to keep their weight down.

Dr. John Morton, MD, medical director of bariatric surgery at Yale New Haven Health System, says he has seen patients in telehealth appointments who have gained five, 10, and even 30 pounds during the pandemic (Yale Medicine, July 1, 2020). They are looking for ways to lose weight.

How to lose weight during the pandemic?

The first step is to come up with a plan, says Dr. Morton. He recommends building new routines around what he calls the four pillars for weight loss: diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. You have to have a disciplined routine otherwise it does not work.

“That means getting up in the morning, taking a shower, getting breakfast, and having a plan for the day. Purpose gives direction, and it helps when it comes to weight,” says Dr. Martin.

One or two pounds a week is a reasonable weight loss pace, Dr. Morton says. “If you want to cut back by 500 calories a day, that might mean you are exercising the equivalent of 200 calories and cutting out 300 calories in your diet.” It can be done.

Where there is a will there is a way. Be safe and stay healthy.

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