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Weight Management in the Covid-19 Era

Rada Shakov, MD

In March 2020, the lives of most people in the world were altered because of the Covid-19 mandated quarantine. What was supposed to be a two week “flatten-the-curve” in New Jersey specifically, became a months-long closure of schools, restaurants, and non-essential businesses. People were working from home, learning from home, but no longer going to gyms or being as physically active.

This shift changed people’s daily routine and added emotional and psychological stressors that were never felt before. People who relied on school, work, and pleasurable activities outside the home for social interaction were stripped of that human contact. College students were forced to return home and young children were placed in front of computers for hours at a time expected to learn via this new medium.

In the study by Zeigler, et al entitled “Self-quarantine and weight gain related risk factors during the Covid-19 pandemic,” it was postulated that increased time at home may increase eating due to non-nutritive cues. It was also suggested that with staying indoors (because of the mandated quarantine and because of people’s fears of Covid) along with the increased stress that Covid triggered, that widespread weight gain would occur.

Here we are, almost a year later and many of us are dealing with the ramifications of the quarantine. If you look up “quarantine-15” or “Covid-19 pounds” on social media or via search engines, tens of thousands of results come up. How many people found themselves mindlessly eating during Netflix binges or to soothe their emotional turmoil because of this pandemic? In the study by Ruiz, et al, “A Cross-cultural exploratory study of health behaviors and wellbeing during Covid-19,” it was considered that snacking behaviors would increase due to increase in sedentary time, opportunities to snack and a rise in unpleasant emotions like stress, anxiety and boredom.

How do we tackle this issue? How do we address the physical and emotional effects of the quarantine? First and foremost, we must be honest with ourselves, and honest with the steps that we are willing to take to improve our physical and emotional well-being. Many women derive their confidence from their outward appearance. It is important to have self-love and acceptance regardless of the number on the scale or dress size.

Body confidence is important but maintaining a healthy weight to prevent diseases such has high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease is crucial. Heart disease happens to be the number one killer of women in the United States. Therefore, weight loss is health gain!

Starting a weight loss program can be overwhelming, especially because of the abundance of information available on the internet. It is important to set short terms goals that are easy to accomplish. Whether it is by removing soda or sugar from your diet to incorporating fruits and vegetables, take steps that are manageable. Meal prep at home to reduce take-out for lunch or dinner is a wonderful way to monitor exactly what goes into the food that you are eating and save money as well. There are also many outside sources for assistance, such as physicians who specialize in weight loss, like we do at The Youth Fountain. We offer physician supervised weight loss programs and recipes, along with the motivation needed to keep focused.

I am a big advocate for physical activity and exercise especially when combined with healthy eating. Exercise releases endorphins which are the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. With increased exercise we can improve our mood, improve our outlook and feel more motivated to take better care of ourselves. There are many options for exercise that do not include gyms for those people concerned about the spread of Covid. YouTube videos, social media videos and fitness apps can cater to the individual’s level of fitness. There are many ways to be active that can be fun and not feel like a chore. Small changes lead to big improvements and can become habits that we stick to.

Dr. Rada Shakov is a Board-Certified Gastroenterologist who also specializes in weight loss, health maintenance and aesthetic medicine. She is a published author and has won numerous awards for a variety of research topics. She continues her aesthetic training with live webinars, conferences and a variety of educational experiences.

Follow Dr. Shakov on Facebook @theyouthfountain, Instagram @theyouthfountain and TikTok @theyouthfountain

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