Gaining weight while working from home? Here's what you MUST do
First Published Dec 24, 2020, 1:26 PM IST
Coronavirus pandemic has profoundly affected many aspects of our lives, including our eating habits and exercising schedules, which has directly contributed to weight gain within the Indian population, particularly among women, says Dr Sumit Talwar, HoD and Consultant for bariatric surgery and general surgery at Manipal Hospitals in Old Airport Road, Bengaluru.
The Coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) pandemic with its tally crossing 10 million (as of December 21, 2020) in India, has led to significant disruption in everyday life this year.
As more and more Indians find themselves isolated at homes without their usual routines, there has been widespread concerns among the public, regarding overeating, sedentary behaviour and weight gain.
COVID pandemic has profoundly affected many aspects of our lives, including our eating habits and exercising schedules, which has directly contributed to weight gain within the Indian population, particularly among women.
Women in every house have to manage everything from taking care of household works, cooking, taking care of kids to working from home, which can adversely affect their health both physically and mentally.
As per the poll conducted by WebMD in the US, approximately half of the women gained weight due to "COVID restrictions" when compared to 22 per cent of men who responded.
Such has been the impact of the pandemic restrictions on weight gain, that there has been an explosion in social media posts referencing the "Quarantine 15" hinting to coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic with an extra 15 pounds.
Reasons for weight gain during the pandemic
Many reasons have been attributed to weight gain during the pandemic, including sedentary lifestyle, increased stress levels, unrestricted access to food at home, using food to cope with stress and limited access to working out in Gym due to lockdown regulations.
Further, growing dependence on alcohol has contributed to weight gain during the pandemic as per WebMD polls. Dealing with so many changes in the daily routine can result in people finding solace in comfort eating.
Foods high in sugar and fat can activate the brain's reward system, providing a quick energy boost. However, habitual use and endless munching of these comfort food as noted during pandemic lockdowns due to chronic stress may result in several health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes mellitus and obesity along with emotional problems like depression and anxiety.
How to keep weight gain in check?
There is no single 'Pandemic Diet' or 'Pandemic routine' that can help to shed the additional pounds gained during the lockdown.
With COVID19 vaccines still some time away from being rolled out to the public, and no end in sight in the near future as to when the COVID-19 restrictions will end for good, the following steps may be adopted, especially by women to reduce the chances of weight gain during this period of restrained activity.
* Eat Nutritious Food: Food rich in fibres, omega 3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and low in calories (sugar & starch), sodium and bad fat (trans fat) should be preferred, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, fish, whole grains, eggs, legumes, millets, lentils and nuts. Citrus fruits like orange and lime are rich in Vitamin C which may help to fight stress. Food rich in carbohydrates like rice, potato, chapatti and flour-based food products food items must be avoided, especially for dinner. Good nutrition may reduce the risk obesity, heart diseases, reduce blood pressure and improves well-being and immunity.
* Prepare Diet Schedule: Working from home may give access to food 24/7, which may lead to increased intake of an extra portion of meals directly from the containers, contributing to unwanted weight gain & obesity.
Portioning out snacks or meals on plates or bowls may lead to less eating. Further, preparing a strict diet schedule and sticking to the same can help in limiting the amount of intake of food and prevent binge eating.
* Avoid fried food: Frying may enhance flavour, but cooking high temperatures for a prolonged duration may reduce the amount of nutrients and vitamins. Further, fried foods are high in calories, fat and salt, which may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases.
* Intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting and works to reduce weight by ensuring decreased intake of calories. Various regimes of intermittent fasting are available, all of which may help in changing body composition through loss of fat mass and weight.
* Avoid liquor consumption: Alcohol consumption may lead to excessive weight gain as it provides excessive calories, stops the body from burning fat, can make one feel hungry and can lead to poor food choices. Drinking more cautiously during the lockdown period may help to prevent gaining those additional pounds.
* Self-care: Women tend to give all their attention to their children and family, denying herself of the much-needed self-care. Drink plenty of water and ensure a minimum of 8 hours of sleep every day.
* Adequate exercise: Combining exercise with a healthy diet is a more effective way to lose weight than depending on calorie restrictions alone. Exercise not only helps in weight loss but also can reverse the effects of certain diseases like lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol and reducing in the incidence of heart disease.
To reap the health benefits of exercise, it is recommended to perform some form of aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session. While gym and group classes may be closed due to COVID lockdowns, one can adopt to various homebound exercises even without equipment like yoga, skipping, Pilates, Suryanamaskar along with walking.
* Healthy mindset: One of the major mental blocks to lose weight is wanting too much, too fast. Motivation to lose weight is as important as exercise and eating healthy. Mental health is one of the most important aspects of health in women and ensuring a healthy mindset contributes to a long way in achieving weight loss.
How to measure progress?
Regular monitoring of body weight (once a week) may help to provide a roadmap ahead. Aiming to lose approximately one pound per week may be more realistic.
However more than the body weight, it is the waist size which matters more as various studies have shown that central obesity carries a higher risk of chronic illness and death.
The bariatric surgery option
Both Covid-19 and obesity are pandemics, with morbid obesity associated with increased death rates among patients with Covid-19 pneumonia.
Obesity can lead to dysfunction in the respiratory system with reduced chest wall elasticity and is often associated with diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, hypertension and heart disease.
These comorbidities secondary to obesity may increase the severity of Covid-19 infection with higher chances of admission in ICU.
Covid-19 pandemic and its effects in the form of lockdowns and increased incidence of a sedentary lifestyle may in turn lead to increased incidence of obesity in the society leading to a vicious cycle between Covid-19 and Obesity.
Obesity treatment in the form of diet and physical activity are effective only in short term and such individuals may benefit in the form of bariatric surgery in the long run.
Bariatric surgery may help to a great extent in reducing the risk of Covid-19, the severity of disease, ICU admission and death rates in these group of individuals with morbid obesity.
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