The good news is that the COVID-19 virus today is different from the COVID-19 virus at the beginning of the year. Most of the coronavirus strains seem to have weakened but remains aggressive. And although the death rate is approaching 210,000 people in the United States, this is far less than predicted when it first originated.
The bad news is that flu season is upon us and people will begin staying inside gaining more winter weight. This is not a good combination while COVID-19 rages among us. Most people remain susceptible to this virus and one of the major risk factors involves another unspoken pandemic—obesity!
Overweight and obesity are major risk factors with COVID-19. We determine overweight and obesity by using weight and height to calculate the “body mass index” (BMI). Although not absolute, the BMI gives us a good starting point in determining our body make-up. For most Americans, our body fat is out-of-control. The average BMI of an American is roughly 29 which is very close to becoming obese. The most recent data is always about 2 years old so in the year 2018, 32.5 percent of American adults were overweight and 42.4 percent were considered obese. That means that at most only one out of four Americans are a normal body weight! This may explain why COVID-19 has wreaked mayhem on our population.
Simply, obesity puts you in the danger zone not just with COVID-19 but with other obesity related diseases including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. These co-morbidities complicate the course of infection from this virus and that is not expected to change.
So, what can you change TODAY to alter the course of your own destiny with COVID-19?
First, do not wait for someone else to protect you! All the measures taken so far were to “flatten the curve”. It was never expected that people would forever avoid getting it. We simply wanted to kick the can down the road until we learned more about the virus and we developed treatments. Waiting for a vaccine will not give you the same protection that you can give yourself and it is likely that each of us may get some strain of COVID-19 eventually. So, plan for it and be ready!
This virus is much like the flu. Even with a vaccine, flu shots are only 40 percent effective because the virus mutates. This is exactly what the COVID-19 virus is doing, so do not bank on the vaccines protecting you.
Your secret weapon is making good lifestyle choices!
You must start today moving the scale numbers down to a healthy weight—
- Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water and if still thirsty have coffee or tea. Eliminate all sugary drinks or diet drinks. Eat the fruit instead of drinking juice.
- Get rid of the junk food in your house. Do not tell yourself that you can never have the junk food ever again as this will make you want it more. Instead make access to it difficult or tell yourself that you will only have it on special occasions but never allow it in your house.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables so your body gets the nutrients that it needs to function at peak performance. Food is fuel. We need to increase consumption of good-for-you foods while decreasing room for the bad-for-you foods.
- Continue to move to the healthier side on the Camp Jump Start Eating Plan continuum by cutting out dairy and decreasing meat, sugar, salt and all oils.
- Calculate your fiber intake and aim for 35 -50 grams per day by eating the naturally high fiber foods which will fill you up but also help remove substances that make you sick.
Other tips for this flu season—
- Continue social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks.
- Always think about your masking procedure—wash your hands before putting it on, do not touch the outside of the mask EVER, wash your hands before taking it off and wash them again once the mask is removed. Determine an area to keep the mask and avoid contamination by cleaning and storing as instructed.
- Get your Vitamin D level checked with a blood test and talk to your doctor about supplementing if you are low. Low Vitamin D levels set you up for viral infections due to your decreased immune response to them.
- Have zinc lozenges available and use every two hours while awake if a sore throat develops.
- Continue regular outdoor activity even if it is cold. Healthy activity will cause you to work up a sweat and we need to do this every day for about an hour for maximum benefit. Bodies were meant to move so “get up, get out and move!”
- Pay attention to your mental health. Seek joy in your life and do the things that you love. Read, listen to music, look at family picture albums, walk, dance, do yoga, meditate and try new things. Find new interests by looking for ideas on the internet. And always remember to balance physical inactivity with exercise time. The best medicine for depression is exercise but if that does not help your mood then seek help.
- Connect with other people in new ways like Zoom and facetime but use old-fashioned phone calls too.
- This year get a flu shot! You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. If you got sick after getting a flu shot previously, it is likely that you were exposed prior to receiving the vaccination. This year avoid exposure by practicing social distancing, hand washing and wearing a mask while standing in line for the flu shot.
- Stay home if you are sick and avoid sick people.
My hope is that COVID-19 and this pandemic encourages us all to value our health. It has given us an opportunity to get fit and embrace a healthy lifestyle. The decision is yours to make and either way you are the only one that will either reap the rewards or suffer the consequences by the way you choose to live. I hope you live well.