Covid-19 is still at the top of the news charts and that's no surprise at this point. Whether you think everyone should be wearing a mask 😷 or not, let's dive into something pretty clear cut about Covid-19: obesity.
When looking at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, they suggest that people of ANY age with one of the eight underlying conditions are are at increased risk of SEVERE illness from COVID-19 (1):
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Out of these eight underlying conditions, it seems like a lot of them you may not have a ton of control over. But obesity on the other hand, is something you CERTAINLY can do something about. The CDC specifically states a BMI of 30 or higher. For the athletic population, that has more muscle mass than the average Joe, BMI may not be the best indicator for you. But for the rest of the public, BMI is a good quick-and-dirty indicator of how you are doing in terms of of body fat. Check out what your BMI is here.
An unfortunate truth about American health care is the tendency for doctors to prescribe a "fix" (aka prescription) before really getting your diet right. When a proper diet is coupled with a good exercise routine, you are going to be well on your way to getting your BMI to a healthful level. So, where to start? Well, this depends on how involved you want to get.. Let's look at a list of the easiest (but least likely to get significant results) to hardest (most likely to get you specific results). Notice that ALL of these methods are used to create a caloric deficit (eating less food than your body burns).
- Making healthier choices. This seems simple enough but can be a bit "tricky" with some of the marketing tactics that companies use to make you believe that their food is healthy. While its true that a guacamole bowl may be a better quality fat for you, it can also be very calorically dense (meaning there is a lot of calories in a small portion). Focus on substituting snacks and obviously less healthy choices (think potato chips) with voluminous veggies. Substitute your sugary soda for low calorie options like Zevia Soda (or diet soda if you are okay with the artificial sweetener).
- Using a "system" like weight watchers. The reason many systems like this are so popular is for good reason, they are easy to grasp. WW and similar systems offer a great way for you to start being mindful of the ramifications of your choices without strict restrictions.
- Tracking your calories. When it comes to weight loss, all methods are designed to help you create a caloric deficit. Most people under-estimate how much they really eat (2). If you do nothing but track calories, you will certainly lose weight (3). But, a diet of 2,000 calories from McDonald's is not going to be as healthful as a more mindful approach. You can certainly use our free macronutrient calculator and just look at the calories.
- Using a meal plan. When done well, a meal plan offers a simple guide to creating a caloric deficit. The reason we put this as slightly better than just tracking calories, is because when someone designs you a good meal plan, it often takes into account more than calories - but, the biggest downside of using a meal plan is that it doesn't teach you how to make decisions. As soon as you get off the meal plan, weight regain is inevitable if you start eating more calories than your are burning. Want to develop your own meal plan? We have a FREE EBOOK HERE!
- Tracking your calories, protein, and fiber. This method is slightly more complex than just tracking calories. By making sure to hit your protein and fiber goals, the remaining calories can come from either fats or carbs. This method requires more work than tracking calories alone but less work than tracking macros.
- Tracking macronutrients. Macros, short for macronutrients, are the things that make up calories: carbs, fats, and proteins. Why would you track your macros if all you need to do is track calories to lose weight? Simply put, it makes sure you are getting a balanced diet that supports your natural body functions. Want to read more on this topic? Read our blog diving into macros here.
- Tracking macros and (additional). Once you have tracking your macronutrients (and fiber) dialed in, now you can go down a variety of habit holes including micronutrients (read about supplementation here), meal timing or fasting, and even diets specific to how they react with your body (inflammation).
Need some ideas for a workout regimen? Check out these free programs from Fitness Informant!