Obesity in the Time of Covid

Jade-Ceres Violet D. Munoz

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I glanced upon the notes on my medical file and saw the word “OBESITY”. I knew I gained a significant amount of weight over the last few months -- I’d say about 10 kilos or so, but never expected it to push me over the obesity limit.

My doctor actually did a “tsk tsk” sound before she started to talk. “I need you to shed the weight and I need you to start working on it today. We need to see results in the next three months or you’ll be in serious trouble.” She reviewed the results of all the tests I had taken two days before. “Let’s target 2 kilos in two weeks, okay”

Funny enough, I didn’t expect to be in this situation when I came to see her. I’ve been putting off an appointment with the doctor for over a year -- which was acceptable given how Covid has basically ravaged the world and left the medical world under a great strain just to keep up with all that’s happening.

A few days after my 40th birthday, I had trouble sleeping. I’ve always survived on less than 8 hours of sleep a day for most of my life, but it got worse progressively. A few days before deciding to finally see a doctor, I was down to 2 to 3 hours of sleep a night. I had a constant headache and it was affecting my performance at work and my daily life.

So, I went to see a doctor in the hopes of getting a prescription for sleeping pills. As we’ve done before, I got on the scale to get my weight and had my blood pressure checked. Then, I started telling her what’s been happening to my sleep pattern. She just nodded and asked to measure my blood pressure again.

She gave me a piece of paper after that. It wasn’t the prescription I had hoped for. Instead, it was a referral letter to get some lab tests and a chest x-ray. She told me to come back in two days when she gets the results.

I marched to her office two days later. Yet again, no prescription for sleeping pills, instead what I got was a diagnosis of several issues: high cholesterol, prediabetic blood sugar, possible liver damage, hypertension and obesity. Apparently, all my newly discovered health issues are rooted to a single issue -- the rapid weight gain over lockdown.

When the pandemic started to hit the world in March 2020, over 2.6 billion people around the world went into one form of lockdown or another to flatten the curve of Covid. Being in lockdown has forced many people into new unhealthy habits that have resulted in rapid weight gain. The combination of inactivity with increased screen usage (due to work from home, online learning set up) is partly to blame. For many, eating habits were also greatly altered -- which may be due to stress or simply boredom. In my case, I rediscovered the love for cooking and ended up cooking full meals 3 to 4 times a day. Whereas before lockdown, it was only a quick breakfast and dinner routine that we had at home. With more time on my hands, I was putting together breakfast, lunch and dinner and still had time for baking in between. Cakes, muffins and bread became our new normal. The ease of access to energy-dense food was my personal undoing.

The scary part is, CDC confirms that obesity worsens the outcomes from Covid-19. The virus is still out there and is not yet done wreaking havoc on the world, yet people like me have added a problem on top of it by introducing obesity into the mix. Obesity is linked to impaired immune function, decreased lung capacity and increases the risk of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and invasive mechanical ventilation. According to CDC, more than 9000, adult Covid-19 hospitalization occurred in the US from the start of Covid in Mar 2020 to Nov 2020, of that 30% were attributed to obesity.

Change needs to start today. Live healthy active lives and make the right choices when it comes to food.

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