After being confined to their homes for months because of COVID-19, many Americans will face weight gain.
America has a problem with weight gain and obesity. Shows like My 600 Pound Life, The Biggest Loser, The Dr. Oz Show and Family By The Ton are all prime examples of a country preoccupied with the size and shape of their bodies.
In 2018, 42% of Americans were classified as obese.
With obesity comes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and many forms of cancer. The medical cost of treating obesity in the US is an estimated 190 billion annually. And the obesity rate is steadily increasing. Half of the United States is on-track to be medically obese within ten years. If you’ve gained weight from being COVID quarantined, what are some solutions to the problem?
Even if staying in your house because of COVID-19 has made you gain some weight, keep in mind other factors may be at play. With ageing, hormonal changes and a slower metabolism will trigger your body to gain weight. Typically, with the passage of time, people will gain 1-2 pounds of weight per year. Also, the amount of lean muscle on your frame will decline by 3 to 8 percent per decade past age 30, a process called sarcopenia. A loss of muscle means your body will need fewer calories per day. Therefore, by consuming the same calories as you did when you were younger, weight gain will be highly probable. Also, lipid turnover in the fat tissue decreases during ageing and that makes it easier to gain weight over time, even if we don’t eat more.
Hypothyroidism can develop gradually over the course of many years. Only a doctor can check you for hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism causes a slow-down of your metabolism which can result in drastic weight gain.
Stress and lack of sleep can initiate hormonal changes that affect metabolism.
About 50 million people in the States are allergic to pollen from trees, weeds and grasses. If a person uses antihistamines, such as cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra) to combat these allergies, they’re more likely to be overweight.
Are your bowls and plates too large? In the 1950’s, American dinner plates were on average three centimeters smaller than they are today. However, Americans seem to have larger dinner plates, larger portions and thus larger waistlines nowadays. Japan, on the other hand, is the least obese nation in the world. Their portions are smaller, their dinner plates and bowls are smaller–inhibiting overfeeding–and they put an emphasis on fish, fresh vegetables and rice, rather than fast food and fried food, which are typically laden with sugars and carbs. Consider buying newer and smaller plates, consider measuring your food before serving it and consider using a food journal to document exactly how much food (and what type of food) you’re eating on a daily basis.
If you have gained weight during the COVID lockdown, also consider these simple methods to get your weight-loss goals back on track.
Simply drinking water can boost metabolism by 24–30% over a period of 1–1.5 hours, helping you burn calories.
Surprisingly, good coffee is loaded with antioxidants and can have numerous health benefits. Studies show that the caffeine in coffee can boost metabolism by 3–11% and increase fat burning by up to 10–29%.
Green tea is also worth incorporating into your diet. Green tea contains small amounts of caffeine. It’s packed with powerful antioxidants called catechins and they are believed to work with caffeine to promote fat burning.
Intermittent Fasting directs people to cycle between periods of fasting and eating. Short-term studies suggest intermittent fasting is as effective for weight loss. It is because calorie are restricted on an ongoing basis. Some advocates of intermittent fasting say that early hunter gatherers would eat large meals only a couple of times a week, when prey was killed. They say eating constantly as modern humans typically do is a relatively new phenomenon in human history.
A fiber called glucomannan has been consistently linked to weight loss. It absorbs water, makes you feel full and therefore causes you to eat less. Studies show that people who eat this fibre on a regular basis, while incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables will indeed lose fat and lose weight.
If you truly want to lose weight, it’s important to cut back on added sugar. Sugar is bad, but sugar in liquid form is even worse. Liquid sugar is possibly the most fattening aspect of current diets. Refined carbohydrates include sugar and grains that have been stripped of their fibrous, nutritious parts. It’s now common knowledge that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children. Keep in mind that this applies to fruit juice as well. Eating whole fruit has its benefits, but limit or avoid fruit juice altogether.
If you want to get all the benefits of carb restriction, then consider going all the way and committing to a low-carb diet.
Keep delicious and healthy food that you enjoy eating close at hand. You can easily prepare healthy snacks and take with you to work or school–these snacks will help avoid the temptations of eating junk food. Consider filling your home with whole fruits, nuts, baby carrots, yogurt and hard-boiled eggs.
Doing aerobic exercise, aka cardio, is an excellent way to burn calories and improve your physical and mental health. Cardio is critical in targeting belly fat and fat which accumulates around internal organs.
Be aware that food addicts typically have underlying psychological, psychosocial and physiological issues. If you do have an addiction to food, and you stay at your home because of COVID-19, it can be a recipe for massive and significant weight gain.
And if you have started binge eating and gaining weight during the COVID lockdown, rest assured, you’re not alone. Gyms have closed, public parks and beaches are out-of-bounds, unemployment is through the roof and many people overeat, in an effort to cope.
Conquering an addiction requires commitment and sometimes medical intervention. Quarantine makes the issue that much more complex.
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) means your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones. This slows the body’s metabolism and can lead to weight gain.
Snacking regularly can mean you take in more calories than you need. This can lead to overall weight gain.
Cushing’s syndrome is very rare. High levels of the hormone cortisol is the cause of this disease which can develop as a side effect of long-term steroid treatment or as a result of a tumour.
Weight gain is a common symptom associated with Cushing’s syndrome, particularly on the chest, face and stomach. Depending on the cause, treatment typically involves either reducing or withdrawing the use of steroids, or surgery to remove the tumour.
People respond differently to stress, anxiety and depressed mood. Some people may lose weight, while others may gain weight. Some people turn to food as a coping mechanism and it can lead to a vicious circle. Weight gain from depression can make you more depressed, which can lead to further weight gain.
Proper diet and exercise, controlling anxiety and depression and meditation are key strategies in weight loss. If those strategies are not effective, if an individual is still concerned about localized fat deposits in the waist and flanks, then liposuction is a viable solution. If a person remains 30-50 lbs overweight, then procedures like the gastric balloon and weight loss medication are recommended.
There are of course other surgical interventions to help correct the problem If someone is super morbidly obese.
For individuals with >50 lbs or BMI > 35 then the gastric Sleeve appears to be one of the most effective procedures. In a sleeve gastrectomy, we separate and remove a part of the stomach from the body. We transform what remains of the stomach into a tube-like structure. This smaller stomach cannot hold as much food. It also produces less of the appetite-regulating hormone ghrelin, which may reduce the appetite of a person.
Whether COVID-19 has been a factor or not, if you do struggle with severe weight gain, which at times can be disfiguring especially if you lose said weight, there are cosmetic methods to improve your appearance.
An abdominoplasty (or tummy tuck) removes excess skin throughout the abdomen. The procedure does three things: remove extra skin, remove extra fat and tighten the abdominal wall.
We do an augment lift to replace lost volume and lift the droopy breast. Alternatively, some patients want a reduction (which includes a lift).
The buttocks/lateral thighs hang and ‘fall’ after weight loss. This leads to a ‘pancake effect’ of on the buttocks. A lower body lift procedure involves removing excess skin from the lateral body and buttock areas and lifts the buttock and thigh skin.
After extreme weight loss, the face loses volume and can look gaunt. Excessive skin hangs from the cheeks and necks. Fat grafting and a face and neck lift can correct this appearance.
A brachioplasty removes excess skin and fat from the upper arms, distribution of skin and fat which is common after extensive weight loss.
The inner thighs also droop after weight loss. We will excise excess skin and fat using a groin crease scar. This, combined with liposuction can dramatically improve appearance.
It’s no secret that isolation and quarantine causes stress, depression and a tendency to overeat. The effects of isolation and quarantining has been observed in great detail not via COVID-19, but in the American prison population. There are an estimated 80,000 people in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. It’s a controversial measure that’s put in-place either to protect the confined inmate (from other prisoners) or for the protection of the prison population (from the confined inmate).
Robert King is a former prisoner who lived in solitary confinement for 29 years. It’s now established that the prolonged isolation he endured changed the way in which his brain functioned. He developed an inability to ‘recognize’ faces and his sense of direction was destroyed. By living alone in a space the size of a standard household bathroom for nearly three decades, it’s as if his brain deleted the skills and abilities that it deemed no longer useful (navigation skills and facial recognition).
Isolation in either a prison or in the confines of your own home can result in higher cortisol levels, increased blood pressure and an impulse to overeat (and thus gain weight). Fortunately, weight gain in your home (because of COVID-19 isolation) is a much more solvable problem than weight gain in a small prison cell. And if you have left the path of your weight loss journey because of COVID-19, rest assure the solutions are plentiful.
Call to speak to Dr. Moein and staff at Healthy Life Bariatrics to discuss how to lose your excess weight. Dr. Moein is now conducting virtual consultations. Call (310)-694-4486 to schedule a time that is best for you.