The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the lives of humanity. Many people have gained weight during the nearly two years of the coronavirus spread around the world. The virus continues to lurk, despite the fact that Latin America is no longer the epicenter of the pandemic: COVID-19 cases continue to occur at a slower rate. Meanwhile, the kilos that were not there before the pandemic stand out. The tummy has grown and can be a health risk, but it can be returned to a comfortable weight.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 16 states now have obesity rates of 35% or more. It was noted that many Americans have gained weight since the COVID-19 public health emergency began, likely driven by an increase in sedentary behavior, stress and problems such as loss of employment and income that make healthy eating difficult. Also, those rates have been increasing faster among racial minorities.
In Latin America, Already in November of last year the Federation of Obesity Societies of the region had published a work in the that warned that there were risks of increased cases of overweight and obesity due to the pandemic as a result of social isolation and confinement to avoid contagion. “In Latin America, public spaces for physical activity without close physical contact are less frequent, especially in the poorest areas. This can cause a decrease in physical activity, a predisposition to weight gain and a worsening of related conditions ”, the work published in Obesity Reviews and carried out by Bruno Halpern, of the executive committee of the Latin American Federation, in collaboration with researchers from Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and Switzerland.
The good thing is that the pounds gained can be lowered. “The pandemic generated many changes in daily life. There were more people who gained weight. Isolation produced changes in eating habits, eating in response to emotions, and physical activity, according to what we saw in a study we did in our medical society, ”he told Infobae the medical specialist Marianela Ackermann, member of the Obesity group of the Argentine Nutrition Society.
Through a survey of 5,286 people in Argentina, 27.5% of the participants were found to have gained between 3 and 5 kilos during the first 12 months of the pandemic. Another 18.3% of those surveyed gained between 5 and 8 kilograms, and 18.1% gained more than 8 kilos.
“The first advice if you want to lose the kilos that were gained during the pandemic is scheduling,” said Dr. Ackermann. You have to schedule meal times and workout times, plan menus, use the time to cook healthier. Programming is key to not depending on the will. If we leave everything to will, it is more difficult. For example, if a person comes back from work and is tired and finds that they have unwashed vegetables, they are more likely to pick up the phone and order fast food ”.
In addition, the specialist advised “to focus on food when it is being consumed.” Added: “Gradual descent is better than rapid descent. Therefore, it is convenient to adopt habits of programming meals and physical activity and a rest schedule for a progressive decrease. To all this is added stress management. Due to the isolation due to the pandemic, high levels of stress and higher alcohol consumption were generated that contributed to the increase in weight ”.
That’s why Dr. Ackermann recommended that getting organized for physical activity is crucial to managing stress. “Choosing a schedule, leaving clothes ready, a list of music that we like and doing activities such as dancing, yoga, walks, sleeping no less than 6 hours and maintaining social contact influence in lowering the stress level and this has repercussions to be able to lower of weight progressively and sustain it over time, without rebound effect. When you manage to generate a lifestyle with the habit of physical activity and healthy eating and you learn to better manage your emotions. That helps not only to the progressive descent but also to the maintenance of the weight ”.
“With the pandemic, the belly grew because some people ate more and moved less”, commented to Infobae Dr. Silvio Schraier, deputy director of the specialization degree in nutrition at the Barceló Foundation, in Argentina. To lower them, the expert recommended that you have to go to “Eat less, especially food products that have excess fats, sugars and salt, and more vegetables and fruits.” Products with fats, sugars and salt take up little space on the plate and are high in calories. On the other hand, vegetables and fruits are not very fattening, but they fill the plate.
In addition, Dr. Schraier stressed that it is key to get out of a sedentary lifestyle. “Ideally, you have to walk 10,000 steps per day, which can be measured with any mobile phone app”, said. And he remarked that you have to be patient to observe the decrease in weight: “It should be remembered that what was increased since March of last year – when the pandemic began to hit Latin America – cannot be lowered in a few days. The ideal is to lose approximately 500 grams per week, that is, 2 kilos per month ”.
It is important to note that there is scientific evidence that excess visceral fat can increase a person’s risk of metabolic disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease and high cholesterol, and sleep apnea, among other The waist circumference is related to visceral fat. Today the recommended waist measurement for men is up to 100 centimeters. For women between 85-90 centimeters.
For Dr. Mónica Katz, former president of the Argentine Nutrition Society and co-author of the book The No Diet Method, “You should not follow restrictive diets, which prohibit foods or extremely reduce calories, because it is shown in scientific research that the human brain begins to identify that it does not have a sufficient amount of food and the sensation of hunger is generated. Dieting also means depriving yourself of pleasure. After a few months, the person begins to eat a lot again, and becomes more overweight “Katz explained.
One of the reasons for making changes that involve only a progressive decrease in weight is in how the human body is composed. Each kilo of weight lost has this average composition: 75% fat and 25% muscle, water and bone. That composition is maintained as long as you do not lose weight too quickly. If you do a fast diet, not only changes the quality of the weight lost —50% fat and 50% lean mass or water—, but the regain of kilos will be in the form of fat.
For Dr. Katz, each person who wants to lose weight must create a safe environment: not have products that trigger uncontrol on hand, avoid snacking or large portions. You should eat 4 meals a day at flexible times. Eat only one plate at each meal, and “to consume once a day meat, fish or chicken plus vegetables or legumes as a garnish and in the other main meal some cereal, some good quality pasta, added to vegetables. You can eat sweets, but in small portions ”. He also suggested that one must learn to manage daily stress without consuming food.
“If a person is overweight, it is recommended that they consult a specialist so that they can make changes in habits that lead to the reduction of the kilos that were gained during the pandemic. It is important that the person feel comfortable with the change process. The medical professional can help stimulate the energy or initiative that the patient brings with him when starting the path of weight loss “, said Rosa Labanca, University doctor nutritionist, director of the Center for Assistance-Teaching-Research of the Argentine Society of Obesity ( SAOTA) and representative for Argentina before the World Obesity Society (IASO).
With medical accompaniment, patients can set goals that are achievable, realistic, and agreed upon. For example: weight loss, maintenance of lost weight and not regaining the lost kilos. To preserve patient expectations for achievement, it is ideal to start with simple, clear, realistic, and short-term goals to avoid frustration. Then, work will be done on increasing motivation and giving it positive reinforcement ”.
According to Labanca, try to eat natural foods, such as vegetables and fruits, reduce as much as possible processed foods – such as cold cuts, pasta, and avoid ultra-processed foods, such as cookies, sausages, sweets, jams, among other products-, that is to say, almost all the industrialized thing that has a label ”, he affirmed.
Is it useful to start doing sit-ups to lower the belly? “No”said Karen Cooper, an obesity medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in the United States. “But the abs are great for strengthening different muscles and for maintaining good posture.” The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions three times a week. Dr. Cooper noted that burning belly fat requires 45 to 60 minutes of high intensity cardiovascular activity (such as running, soccer, brisk walking) most days of the week. You also need to cut down on processed foods, fast foods, and alcohol.