It is already established that COVID-19 has disrupted our lifestyle in a major way. The restrictions and the limitations imposed on us, albeit a necessity of the time, have wreaked havoc on our physical and psychological wellbeing. It is a perfect storm for people who are already challenged with psychiatric and metabolic illnesses. Many people have an insight that the deranged sleep routine, inactivity, and poor dietary choices are a contributing factor to weight gain. Most have been making conscious efforts to keep their routine as healthy as possible. Despite this, they are often challenged with combatting weight gain. In addition, the stigma associated with excess weight causes further suffering and anxiety. This begs for a question Why is it difficult to lose weight after all?
Obesity is a complex and progressive medical condition that has become rampant globally. It is defined as a medical condition related to excess fat distribution that impairs health and increases risks of medical complications. Obesity can cause multiple disorders including diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, stroke, heart disease, sleep apnea, and cancer. It has also been shown that patients already challenged with obesity have poor outcomes related to COVID-19 as compared to the general population. Therefore, it is crucial to address obesity aggressively. More recently Canadian Obesity Guidelines were released which highlighted the importance of recognizing and managing Obesity as a complex chronic disease and the biases associated with it. It has debunked the simplistic approach of “eat less and move more” by encouraging a patient-centered approach to improve health outcomes rather than weight loss alone.
The complexity of obesity is derived from an amalgamation of genetic makeup, metabolic profile, behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental factors. The environmental stress generated by COVID-19 is one of the many factors which is playing a key role in uncontrolled weight gain. Stress causes a major disrupting homeostatic control within our body; Homeostasis is the ability to maintain a stable internal state despite environmental changes. This is because stress hormones and neurotransmitters which are usually involved with fight or flight response becomes disproportionately high. This further renders a conservative state within our body that resists energy expenditure and promotes fat storage build-up. In addition, dysregulated appetite and erratic eating behavior to cope with stress are also known to promote excessive weight gain.
It is therefore crucial to recognize that managing obesity is challenging. At an individual level it is important to initiate the process of addressing obesity by a) ceasing to blame yourself for it b) identify behavior patterns that are a challenge and have room for improvement c) strive to incorporate healthy lifestyle routines which you can sustain and enjoy on a long run d) reach out to your physician, if your excess weight is taking a toll on your physical, psychological, or social well-being. Be leary of programs promoting unrealistic results. A complex condition such as obesity requires a multifaceted approach, evidence-based, and targeted intervention that can be delivered by your physicians and their health teams.
Lastly please be compassionate with yourself. Your body is home to your soul, appreciate it for what it can offer you, no matter what it looks like. It will be easier for you to face your health challenges if you start on a positive note. The road to success would have lots of roadblocks and hurdles, know that you must go on even if you fall. Don’t forget, we physicians are always there to assess, advise, and assist you to achieve your health goals.