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The pandemic shows a risk of obesity and a challenge to weight loss

NEW YORK (AP) – Jennifer Bergin was already obese and prediabetic before the pandemic, and when she learned that she had high blood pressure, she was worried about how sick she might get from COVID-19. She started walking three hours a day, eventually losing 60 pounds.

“I just knew I was a prime candidate for not recovering,” said Bergin, a 50-year-old resident of Charlotte, North Carolina. Now 170 kilograms and 5 feet, 4 inches tall, she is no longer considered obese, but would like to continue to improve her health.

In the early days of the pandemic, health officials warned that obesity and related conditions such as diabetes were risk factors for severe COVID-1

9. This was another reminder of the many major health problems often signaled by obesity – as well as how persistent long-term weight loss can be. Even facing such risks, it is not clear how often Bergin’s dramatic weight loss can be.

Across the country, countless people of all sizes have gained or lost weight during the pandemic. For some, like Bergin, traveling to the office no longer meant more time to walk, less food, and more control over what he ate.

But for others, staying home meant moving less and eating more because of stress, anxiety, depression – or just being close to the kitchen.

The spectrum of weight changes underscores the complexity of obesity, including how important human circumstances can play to one’s health, said Karen H. Gody, an obesity researcher at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. the idea that losing weight is just a matter of will, she said.

“It takes a lot of effort and energy to eat healthy and then lose weight,” Gody said.

Another reason for dealing with obesity is so difficult: weight gain often happens slowly over years, making it easier to reject it as a health problem. In the United States, approximately one in four adults is considered obese, and one in three is overweight.

Often people are not motivated to lose weight until a heart attack or a significant deterioration in lifestyle, said Eric Plaisans, an obesity researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

And while the pandemic highlights the risks of obesity, he said people are already used to hearing how unhealthy being overweight is.

“It usually takes much bigger, life-changing events on a personal level,” he said of what often causes successful weight loss for people.

Such was the case with Mickey Beatima, a 29-year-old Seattle resident who began trying to lose weight a few months before the pandemic, when his diabetes led to eye problems.

“It really hit me,” said Beatima, who is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and has gone from about 300 pounds to 170 pounds.

The pandemic accelerated his efforts by facilitating weight loss. He no longer took food, went out with friends, or reunited with his family for their usual holidays.

He also found solace in dancing on YouTube videos and was motivated by the knowledge that recovery would reduce the risk of severe COVID-19.

“If I had to get it and I was still 300, I think it would be a battle rather than if I got it today,” Beatima said.

Christian Hands, a 42-year-old resident of Hammond, Indiana, also lost about 50 pounds during the pandemic and at 180 pounds and 5 feet tall 11 inches is no longer considered obese.

His weight has increased over the years and has reached about 230 pounds. But it wasn’t until he was diagnosed with diabetes at the start of the pandemic that he felt the urgency to make changes – especially after evidence emerged that this was one of the conditions more likely to lead to severe coronavirus disease.

“All these long-term scary things that can happen due to obesity have no longer become long-term problems,” Hinds said.

For many others, the spotlight that the pandemic puts on the risks of obesity is fading as vaccines and treatments reduce the threat of the virus, said obesity researcher Yeary. This can reduce the sense of urgency that helped motivate some people. The circumstances of the pandemic, which facilitated weight loss for some – more time for long walks, eating less – are also disappearing.

For example, Beatima again spends more time with her family and is busy again. But he’s not worried about deviating from his overall fitness goals because, he said, the pandemic gives him a perspective on how his weight is tied to what he values, such as being healthy enough to spend time with his nephews. and my nephews for many years come.

“This new reason is understanding the value of my physical health, my social health and my mental health,” he said.


The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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