Why Your Eating Habits May Put You At-Risk for COVID-19

Tips for working from home

We often joke about the ‘freshman 15’ – the 15-or so pounds of weight (fat) that young adults often gain their first year away from home, at university. Lately, it’s been more about the ‘COVID-19.’ During the pandemic, many of us have gained only 5 or 10 pounds of weight, but for some people, it’s 30 pounds or more. Have your eating habits changed during the pandemic?Most Americans were already at a normal, overweight, or obese BMI (body mass index) before the pandemic began, and those extra pounds gained now represent a real risk to health. Obesity and high blood sugar often go hand-in-hand, further compounding the damage.

A long list of health issues can accompany obesity, with COVID-19-related complications being perhaps the most relevant. Being overweight and having higher blood sugar levels are two things that increase the risk of the types of COVID-19 complications that require hospitalization. In fact, the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and pre-diabetes in the United States may very well explain, at least in part, why our COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality numbers are so terrible as compared to other countries.

Here are a few pandemic weight gain troubleshooting tips to manage eating habits:

  • Stop drinking alcohol. The easiest way to do this is to just not have any in the home. Many people’s alcohol intake has ballooned over the last year, contributing not only to weight gain, but also high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety.
  • Invest in a standing desk. Sitting for long periods of time has been shown to be quite harmful to our health, our posture, and our waistlines. One simple way to spend less time on your tush is to create a standing workstation. A simple way to do this is to put a chair on your desk or table.
  • Move your body. There is really no way around this one. Do yoga videos, at home workouts, march up and down the stairs, bench press the dog. Call a friend and go for a walk (with masks on). Put on some music and jump on the bed. People find all kinds of ways to creatively justify not exercising, but there is really no good excuse for most people. Get up and move!
  • The majority of food should be eaten at meal times, even if you don’t feel hungry for a meal. When we rely on snacking, we never give our insulin receptors a break. Snacks also tend to be more yummy than healthy, undermining balanced nutrition and healthy weight. A general rule of thumb for most people at meal time to is make at least half of your plate vegetables (potatoes and corn don’t count), at least a quarter of your plate protein, and the remaining part of your plate whatever else catches your eye.
  • Stay hydrated. Are you really hungry for a snack, or are you just thirsty? Coffee and alcohol are both dehydrating, so for every cup of coffee or glass of wine you drink, follow it up with a full glass of water.
  • Consider a major change. This is the time of year for fresh starts, and these days of lockdown are also a convenient time to research a new way of eating. Have you always been curious about the Whole30? Keto diet? The Anti-Inflammation diet? Intuitive eating? Cutting out refined sugars? These are the diets I typically recommend to patients ready to reel in their weight and upgrade their health.

Source: Dr. Erica Zelfand ND

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