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Coping with COVID: the patient’s perspective

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We asked our patients for advice on how they kept their weight loss journey on track during the national lockdown that none of us had prepared for! We covered topics such as what challenges came with COVID, how their diet and physical activity changed, and what advice they would give to anyone anxious about a second lockdown.

The first survey respondent had a gastric band with Healthier Weight in 2019. She tells us that planning is key to maintaining a healthy weight during lockdown.

“I found my healthy eating drifted off course a bit as I was not able to go out to shop for fresh fruit and veg as often as I would normally. I also found, like many people, I cooked and baked more treat foods.

“During the lockdown, I was having to rely on online shopping and food deliveries which wasn’t as easy. It is hard planning your meals when you are relying on food deliveries that may have items missing or substituted but I think the hardest part is staying focussed when everything feels so uncertain.

“I think my weekly shop is back to normal now as I have resumed my meal planning and can now go to the shops again.”

Many of us have been working from home during the pandemic, a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down. And while gyms are forced to close, it’s important to discover new ways of exercising.

“I have been more active as I had more time and was more conscious of my inactivity when I was working at my kitchen table instead of in my workplace. I have done a lot more walking.

“It has definitely been more challenging for me despite knowing that being overweight increases the risks of Covid. At times, I felt like my weight and eating were trivial in the grand scheme of things which almost felt like permission to eat things I wouldn’t normally (buttered toast anyone?!).

“It has taken time for me to get my brain to realise that those treats and less healthy foods really don’t solve anything long term and get myself back into eating healthily.”

So, what advice would you give to anyone facing a second lockdown?

“Try to plan your meals ahead, have healthy foods available and remember the guidance on eating small bites, chewing well and waiting between mouthfuls but, if you do slip up, be kind to yourself, accept it happened and move on… don’t let one bad moment become a bad day or a bad week or worse!

“Obesity seems to be one of the big risks for Covid so it is sensible to try to reduce that risk if you can.

“Many of the other risk factors, like ethnicity or health conditions, are things that cannot be changed but this one can and, while we can’t all get into a healthy weight range in a short time, every lb is a step in the right direction!”

Any lockdown recipe’s?

“I do think a good soup makes most things better and my favourite is very simple. Soften one chopped onion in a little butter, add 1 tbsp mild curry powder and cook for 1 minute. Add a bag of frozen cauliflower, stir around then add chicken or vegetable stock to just cover. Cook till soft then puree. You can add milk, coconut milk or even a little cream to enrich it if wanted. Roast a few cauliflower florets and use them or pumpkin seeds instead of croutons for a bit of texture.”

Healthier Weight patient, gastric band January 2019

The second lockdown story comes from Lucy who had a gastric bypass in September 2019 and during lockdown kept fit by walking her puppy and volunteering with her local food bank. Lucy has lost 11 stone 6Ibs (73.7kg) in just over a year, this is her inspiring lockdown story.

“We had to start meal planning more and as I was working at home, we did a weekly shop and it had really helped us keep to meal plans.

“I’ve had to keep to my post-op regime as being stuck at home would’ve previously led to me snacking and overeating all day. I knew if I slipped, it would ruin my progress thus far.”

How did your exercise routine change?

“I was walking the puppy daily during Lockdown but I also started volunteering with a local food bank, delivering parcels around the local area on my bike. Before Lockdown, I’d not been brave enough to go out much on it but since volunteering, I’ve cycled 30 miles in one go for charity and I’ve cycled 10 miles to work and 10 miles back. It’s got me into being a cyclist and I’m so grateful as it’s really helped my weight loss.

“The most challenging thing mentally was feeling lonely at home all day. Fighting the temptation to comfort eat has been hard. I’ve also missed my friends a lot.”

Has the lockdown helped or hindered your weight loss journey?

“A bit of both but I’ve managed to keep on track and exercise has been super helpful. Being at home all day has been hard as it was previously meant that I’d spend all day snacking so had to fight those urges.

“The advice I would give to anyone facing a second lockdown is to make sure you exercise, even if it’s a little walk outside in the air. Stick to your routine and focus your snacks so if you do have to eat something, you have protein around to eat rather than junk. Look after your mental health and make sure that you don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad food day, just try again tomorrow.

“I think the government advertising campaign (obesity being a major risk factor for COVID-19) is not based on science and that there’s no additional money being given to obesity services so it’s scary. I’m so glad I could pay privately as I know if I’d been pre-op during Lockdown, I’d have just gained and gained weight. The government should be looking at the science of obesity and not patronising and scaremongering people living with obesity.”

Lucy, gastric bypass September 2019

The third and final lockdown story comes from Chloe. Chloe gives us the perspective of facing lockdown prior to her gastric bypass procedure which took place in early October 2020.

“I have had to pre-prepare meals so I know that I have the right foods to eat whilst we can’t easily get to the shops! I’ve actually been more excited about cooking and taking more time to check the vitamins and nutrients I’m getting in my meals, which makes me feel great and my body thanks me for it!

“I have been more organised with my weekly shop, making sure I get fresh veg and fruit for myself and my family but also thinking about food that is nutritious AND will last us until we are able to get to the shops again! We have been making delicious soups that we can freeze and then eat at a later date! And because I’m eating smaller portions, we can easily split yummy pre-prepared ready meals that will give myself and my daughter lots of vitamins and keep us going until we have to go shopping.

“[With regards to exercise] we walk the dog more often to just get out of the house, which he’s very happy about, keeps us active and it helps our mental health!”

What has been challenging mentally?

“I suffer badly with bipolar, so with that on top of weight gain and missing family and normality, it’s been very difficult. But having my gastric bypass has helped my mental health enormously, giving me more control of my diet and eating habits and I have more time to care for myself and my family, this has helped me massively.

“Being in the house all the time is difficult because the junk cupboard is calling my name constantly, but my gastric bypass is an amazing tool to help me keep the cravings and negative eating habits at bay. Lockdown has stopped us from eating out more but then it’s very easy to just sit and eat a take away each night. So again, having my bypass is a huge help for me to stay in control!”

What advice would you give to anyone facing a second lockdown?

“The second lockdown is tonight for us in Wales! I would plan all your meals for the week or next few days, then do the same again, just keep it all in a little diary or journal. It’s fun when you get used to doing it and the control helps keep your mental health stay on track too! Make sure you’re able to get your food essentials and don’t go crazy with junk food because it’ll only make you feel worse, grab some small apples or frozen fruit instead. You’ll thank yourself later!”

What is your take on all of the headlines linking obesity to COVID-19?

“I can relate because the first lockdown was in March, I didn’t have my bypass until October, so my eating was completely out of control. I’m a single mum, I didn’t have anyone to do my shopping for me and being bipolar I suffer severely with my anxiety, so we didn’t leave the house for food. So every night was a takeaway, food out of the freezer or just junk from the cupboard and I piled the weight on. I’m SO SO much more confident going into lockdown after having my bypass knowing I’m in control of my eating habits, I don’t have cravings like I used to and I know what my body needs and what it doesn’t.”

Chloe’s lockdown recipe:

“Butternut squash soup You can get prepared veg in a bag in supermarkets so I got: 1 bag of butternut squash 3 cloves of garlic 1 onion 1 tsp of sage Salt and pepper to preference.”

Chloe, gastric bypass October 2020

Although the lockdown has been challenging for all of us, there are simple changes that can be made to keep you on track in your weight loss journey. It’s the small changes that make a huge difference; planning meals and finding new ways to exercise will give you the best chance of succeeding during these incredibly strange times!

If you’re thinking of having weight loss surgery but aren’t sure which procedure is right for you, why not call the Healthier Weight team on 0800 313 4618 to get some information on the surgical and non-surgical treatment options available to you, or click the button below to get a quote.

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