You’re not alone: Licensed medical and mental-health professionals can help
You know about COVID-19, but what about COVID-15? In a nod to the “Freshman 15” theory of first-year college students gaining significant weight, “COVID-15” is a cheeky reference to people’s pounds gained during this year of stress, isolation, and uncertainty. However, there’s nothing humorous about how much weight gain has impacted Americans—or how so many of us have been affected—since the pandemic began.
Americans already were struggling with weight issues pre-pandemic, with more than 42% of U.S. adults identified as obese in 2017–2018. Now new figures note 37% of Americans, or about two in five of us, have gained an average of 14.5 pounds during this past year, closely mirroring the “COVID-15” saying.
Those additional pounds add up to serious impacts on health, including:
- Higher overall mortality
- High blood pressure
- High levels of LDL cholesterol or triglycerides
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea
- Body pain
What’s more, there is growing evidence linking higher weight to higher danger for COVID-19 complications and mortality across all age groups.
Losing weight is a challenge, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has five tips to get you started on the path to weight loss and healthier living during the pandemic, or anytime:
- Make a commitment—Making the decision to lose weight, change your lifestyle, and become healthier is a big step to take, so start simply by making a commitment to yourself. One easy yet effective way to do this is to create and post a written contract committing to the process, including the amount of weight you’d like to lose, the date you’d like to lose the weight by, and the dietary and activity changes you promise to use to get there. You can also write down the reasons why you’re making these changes to help keep motivation high.
- Take stock of where you are—Contact a licensed health care provider to evaluate your weight, height, health history, personal challenges, current eating and exercise habits, and lifestyle goals. While you’re at your evaluation appointment, make a follow-up appointment to monitor your changes and progress (Step 5).
- Set realistic goals—Set some short-term goals and reward your efforts along the way. If your long-term goal is to lose 40 pounds and to control your high blood pressure, some short-term eating and physical activity goals might be to start eating a healthy breakfast, taking a 15-minute walk in the evenings, or having a salad or vegetable with dinner. Focus on two to three goals at a time that are specific, realistic, and achievable. For example, “exercise more” is not a specific goal, but if you say you’ll walk 15 minutes a day three days a week, you are setting a specific, realistic, and achievable goal. By achieving short-term goals day-by-day, you’ll feel good about your progress and be motivated to continue. Setting unrealistic goals (say, losing 20 pounds in two weeks) will leave you feeling defeated and frustrated.
- Identify resources for information and support—Find family members or friends who will support your weight loss efforts. Making lifestyle changes can feel easier when you have others you can talk to and rely on for support. You might have neighbors or co-workers with similar goals: Together you can share healthful recipes and plan group exercise.
- Monitor your progress—Revisit the goals you set for yourself (Step 3) and evaluate your progress regularly. If you set a goal to walk each morning but are having trouble fitting it in before work, get your walk in at lunchtime or after work. Evaluate which parts of your plan are working well and which ones need tweaking. Then rewrite your goals and plan accordingly. If you are consistently achieving a particular goal, add a new goal to help you continue on your path to success. Be sure to celebrate your successes and be proud of your positive progress.
And remember: You are not alone on your weight-loss journey. Medical and mental-health professionals licensed by Department of Consumer Affairs’ boards and bureaus are dedicated to helping you reach your health and well-being goals. Contact a licensed professional for assistance today, and to check a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov. For help accessing healthy food during the pandemic, as well as other vital resources, visit www.covid19.ca.gov or call 211 toll-free.