Before the coronavirus crisis, Mike was dancing through his healthiest period in years – literally.
He’d been taking ballroom dance classes for a few months and loving it. Not only was it fun and social, but Mike, 62, also found it great for his weight and health. He’d slimmed down and gained stamina, and the fancy footwork boosted his mood, confidence and balance.
Then, the classes ended with the Covid-19 lockdown. And Mike, like millions of others, lost his beloved source of exercise.
“But I haven’t gained a pound,” he says proudly. “My husband and I used to eat out at restaurants frequently, but now we’re cooking all our meals – and home-cooking really is better and healthier. Even good restaurants use too much salt, and the portions are often too large.
“And by being forced into buying more groceries and preparing all our meals, we’re more mindful of what – and how much – we’re eating. Plus, we don’t spend time commuting to work, so we’re able to go on long walks and rides on our new e-bikes.”
Turns out Mike’s been doing everything right to avoid pandemic obesity. That is always important for people over 50. But it’s even more crucial now – since the disruptions to our daily lives can cause us to be stressed out, eat and drink too much, and sit around the house not exercising.
Fighting ‘The Covid 15’
We’re all living in perfect conditions for rapid weight gain. A comical phrase – “the Covid 15” – has entered the lexicon. WebMD polls found weight gain among large percentages of people in the US and in other countries.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can focus on establishing better eating habits and, like Mike and his husband, getting more exercise every day.
Under normal circumstances, we want to maintain a proper weight for well-known reasons:
- Healthy blood pressure
- Less stress on bones, joints and organs
- Better sleep
- Improved circulation
- Lower risks of serious illness
Now, Covid-19 gives us even more motivation. Obesity brings serious risks for people who get the virus. And severely obese people are also more likely to have other serious health problems that can make Covid-19 worse if they get infected.
Advice from the Experts on Pandemic Obesity
How to avoid pandemic obesity during the crisis? Create a plan built around diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management, says Dr. John Morton of Yale University.
One or two pounds a week is good, Morton says. “If you want to cut back by 500 calories a day, that might mean you are exercising the equivalent of 200 calories and cutting out 300 calories in your diet.”
Morton and others advise:
- Planning meals and preparing healthy snacks.
- Paying attention to what you’re eating and how much, shopping carefully to avoid packaged junk food for whole foods and protein.
- Watch out for drinking, smoking, overeating and other harmful ways to wind down. Instead, exercise, meditate, and practice creativity to lower stress.
More sugar, stress, and alcohol will take you down one path. Watching what you eat and getting plenty of exercise will take you where you want to go.
Mike is so grateful he learned it – especially since he danced his way there.
“As soon as there’s a vaccine and we feel safe enough to venture back, we’ll be there,” Mike wrote in an entry on his blog, Healthy Restaurant Eating. “But I don’t think we’ll forget what we’ve learned about the value and goodness of a home-cooked meal.”