As we learn more about COVID-19, it has become increasingly clear that there is a strong relationship between obesity and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. According to new research from a non-peer reviewed study out of NYU Langone, COVID-19 patients who are even mildly obese are three times more likely to need intensive care medicine.
In a Daily Beast article, NYU Langone doctor, Qantas Ahmed, analyzes research on the correlation between obesity and COVID-19, noting, “Thankfully, weight loss and mild to moderate exercise very quickly restore innate and adaptive immunity to make a person immediately more capable of fighting infection and less vulnerable to being infected. As sedentary activity impairs immunity, during this pandemic and far beyond, health programs to help Americans get on the move can not only improve an individual’s health, but protect against successive waves of coronavirus infection. Now more than ever, getting into shape has become a matter of urgent national public health security.”
The pandemic has been a wake-up call in many ways to the current state of public health in America, Ahmed’s article is a call to action. It will be a while before some health programs Ahmed proposes can be implemented. For those of us stuck at home, hearing about the risk obesity poses can be anxiety-inducing. However, hope is not lost, there are many steps you can take during this lockdown to build a foundation of healthy lifestyle patterns that are essential to weight loss. At Jeremy Korman, M.D., we place an emphasis on a holistic approach to health and are just an email or phone call away from providing the support you need during this time. Our way of life and the tools we use to approach health may have changed, but we believe that these are promising improvements, changes that will make a healthy lifestyle even more accessible. Here, we’ve compiled some of the most effective tips and strategies for combating obesity during pandemic.
Food for Thought
Creating healthy eating habits may feel like a challenge under quarantine. However, with proper planning and some creativity, healthy eating becomes less of a chore and more of a fun and fulfilling way to take care of yourself.
A good way to start is with a shopping list. For so many of us, grocery shopping in the age of social-distancing can be stressful. Going in without a plan can result in panic-buying junk food or hoarding non-perishables like processed goods, canned food, and pasta. Instead, I recommend sitting down and creating a meal plan.
A meal plan is essentially a handful of your favorite recipes and a calendar. No fear if you are not a master chef, cooking doesn’t have to be complex — Bon Appetit has a long list of simple, delicious dishes that are five ingredients or less. As for planning, the Harvard School of Public Health has created a great resource with strategies and tips on getting started. The process of meal planning is incredibly beneficial for weight control because it allows you to determine portions and ingredients ahead of time, alleviating pre-mealtime stress that can often result in unhealthy, last minute noshing.
When you are selecting recipes and ingredients, a good thing to keep in mind under these circumstances are the stretches of time between your grocery store visits as well as ingredient availability. Luckily, unlike other aisles experiencing shortages, grocery stores seem to be amply supplied with fresh veggies, fruits, fish and poultry. Consider stocking your refrigerator with fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf life like cabbage, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, citrus fruits, and apples. A helpful way to learn more about your ingredients while shopping is through Fooducate, a food-tracking app that uses an extensive database to provide nutritional information and healthy substitutes upon scanning the item’s barcode with your phone’s camera.
Making a Habit Out of Exercise
Unfortunately, while we are on lockdown it is hard to even get a couple hundred steps in around the house. Luckily, many gyms and work-out companies like FitOn, Nike Training Club, and Planet Fitness have released free online yoga, cardio and strength classes for you to participate in all from the comfort of your home.
If you’re new to at-home work-outs or even working out at all, Down Dog is a personal favorite. This family of workout apps include HIIT, barre, and yoga exercises that are highly customizable so that you can determine what level and length work best for you. The videos vary from session to session, so working out never becomes boring.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 30 minutes of daily physical activity for improved overall health as well as disease prevention. In order to establish an active lifestyle, it is important to create a routine that works for you and that you can stick to. This means designating a space in your home for exercising, whether it is your living room or your backyard, and carving out half an hour every day to participate in an activity that is fun and engaging to you. While gyms aren’t available, don’t be afraid of getting creative, people all over are substituting equipment with water jugs and canned goods. During quarantine, there is no such thing as a right or wrong way to work out, as long as you are moving and staying active.
Prioritizing Mental Health
During a crisis it is important to check in on yourself and your mental wellbeing. According to a study performed at University College London, stress and obesity are linked. Scientists believe that chronically high cortisol, the chemical released by stress, promotes fat accumulation around the waist and also increases the ability of fat cells to store fat. Taking the time to meditate can help manage stress and thus, weight loss. The free app, Insight Timer, has more than 40,000 guided meditations that walk you through topics like Sleep, Stress, and even Coronavirus.
Ultimately, managing obesity at home can feel lonely, especially during this period of isolation, but it is important to remember that you are not alone. Here at Jeremy Korman, M.D., in partnership with Marina Weight Loss Center, we have been providing telehealth appointments and video consultations in order to build a support network for our patients. We’ve had great success with this as our clients who come from as far as Fresno to San Diego are able to bring our professional medical expertise into their own homes. In addition to our existing programs, we are excited to be hosting a web support group with Dr. Marylin Calzadilla that you can register for on Emotional Eating and Stress Management this Thursday, May 7th at 5PM PST. Although this pandemic has been challenging for all of us, it has offered us the space to reflect on ourselves, to identify what it is within our routines, our relationships and our health that just haven’t been working. Now, more than ever, it is important to consider what you can do to cultivate a healthy lifestyle. During this time of transformation, we welcome the opportunity to grow with you and to provide you with the assistance you need to make a change in your life.