One thing – amongst many – that the COVID-19 pandemic may cause is weight gain in a good number of people. Pockets of studies are showing up online about an increase in weight during COVID-19. There are many health implications of overweight and obesity and this article is focused on reminding you about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight during this period and how you can achieve this.
It’s been months since the pandemic blew up in our faces. Some of us have been able to find our balance again – gaining control of our work, health, and general life balance. While some of us are still struggling with the changes – increased expenditure, reduced or no income, homeschooling and working, inability to gain control of health. The list is endless.
I am focusing on controlling weight because your weight is an important measure of your future health.
Overweight and obesity are associated with diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, heart diseases, and even cancer. It is associated with a higher risk of illness and death. Why wait to deal with such issues when you can contribute significantly to preventing them?
If you have a healthy weight, do your best to protect it. If you don’t strive hard to achieve it.
How much weight you have in relation to your height, the size of your waist and how much weight you gain after your early twenties greatly affects chances of developing high BP, heart attack, diabetes, infertility or even being diagnosed with cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, endometrium cancer, etc to mention a few of the risks.
How do you know if you have a healthy weight?
One simple way is to calculate your BMI (Scroll up to use the BMI calculator).
If your BMI is between 18.5 – 24.9, you have a healthy weight.
If your BMI is between 25 – 29.9, you are overweight.
If your BMI is above 30, you are obese.
Waist circumference is another measure that you can use to checkmate overweight and obesity.
Fat accumulates around the waist and chest and this has been linked to high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and heart diseases. The higher the amount of fat, the more at risk a person is.
To measure your waist circumference, find the high point of your right hip bone and place a tape rule at that point and wrap it around your abdomen. You will find out that it is almost in line with the top of your navel. The tape should be snug around your body but not too tight. Make sure it is parallel to the ground and take your measurement.
If your waist size is 35 inches or more as a woman, then that’s a red flag.
If your waist size is 40 inches or more for men, then it’s a red flag.
How do you control your weight?
It should be noted that our diets, genes, lifestyle, culture, physical activity, microbiome (community of microorganisms in our body) all affect our weight.
I am going to focus on diet and physical activity.
To get your healthy weight, you need a balance in energy from your foods and energy that you burn. Do what you can to maintain the balance. However, if you’re taking in more energy than you can burn, then you need to work towards burning more energy so that you can lose weight.
- Find an eating strategy that works for you
Control what you eat. While the amount of food you eat determines whether you gain or lose weight, the quality (type) of foods you eat dictates how much of food you eat.
Whatever eating strategies you come up with or discover, these high-quality foods should be included in your meals every day:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Legumes (beans, lentils)
- Whole grains
Cut out trans fat (margarine, pastries), reduce the oil in your stews and soups, avoid soft drinks when you can, and reduce added sugar.
Remember that it is not enough to remove the bad from your food, it is much more important to include the good in it. You find people who say ‘I don’t drink soft drinks or eat junk fast foods’ but you never hear them say, ‘I eat lots of fruits and vegetables’. Focus on the good and stick to it.
2. Be physically active
Many people underestimate the importance of exercise and physical activity. Beyond controlling your weight, it helps you live longer and healthier, prevents diabetes (type 2), protects you from heart diseases and high blood pressure, improves cognitive function, mood, and anxiety.
It is important to achieving a healthy weight and a healthy life.
A minimum of 30 minutes a day of physical activity is important. This is the minimum. You don’t have to engage in extreme or vigorous sports to get some health benefits, walking at least for 3 hours a week is beneficial.
However, if you want to lose some weight, you can engage in more physical activity by brisk walking, jogging, cycling. But remember that any physical activity is better than sitting down for hours at a stretch.
Also, make your day more active. Don’t just sit for hours at a stretch. Get up every hour. Sweep, clean the house, stretch, use your stairs instead of an elevator at work. Invent the activities that you can do around your limited spaces.
3. Be defensive or mindful about your eating
Sitting at home or being limited from moving around can be hard. If you’re at home, you may find yourself near foods that you would ordinarily avoid or you eat more than you would on a normal day (pre-COVID).
My advice to you is that you need to be defensive and mindful about your eating.
- Don’t store up sugary snacks. No matter where you hide them, you will find them.
- Use smaller plates to eat.
- Deliberately increase vegetables in every plate.
- Commit to eating 2 – 3 fruits a day if you can afford to.
- Store up on healthy snacks for comfort like home-made popcorns, nuts, fruits
- Pay attention to how much you eat, why you eat them, and when you eat them.
In a nutshell
A healthy weight is important for your health. Only you can take charge of your weight and health so you have to make up for the mind to be deliberate about it. I cannot close my eyes to the fact that healthy foods can be expensive especially during this COVID pandemic but overweight and obesity cost more so invest your time, money, and every other thing that you need to get yourself in great shape. Eat more fruits and veggies, move more, and be deliberate about both.
As always, I encourage you to eat better, live better.
Notes: Walter Willett and Patrick Skerrett. Eat, drink and be healthy. The Havard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating.