Have you ever noticed how often we greet someone with the question “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”. But, in fact, this is more of a greeting than a real question. Our automatic response is to say, “Fine”, even if we are not.
Can you think of a time in your life when the whole world stopped, and virtually no one on the planet was not affected by the same threat? COVID-19 has essentially stopped all of us in our tracks. None of us are immune to this invisible threat so we have had to be locked down, kept apart and forced to be wary of others. This is not normal.
As a psychologist I am aware of how our perceptions can affect our feelings. If you perceive a threat it is normal to feel anxious (the “what if” response). If you perceive a loss, it is normal to feel sad. If you perceive injustice, it is normal to feel anger. Even a quick reflection will confirm that COVID-19 has brought on all 3 of these situations. Survey evidence has confirmed that increases in anxiety, depression and anger can be seen globally.
What has this to do with obesity? Good question. Well, if you live with obesity and you contract COVID-19 your risk of hospitalization, admission to ICU or requiring a respirator is greater. So, I am concerned that perhaps those living with obesity are more stressed. As well, obesity management is often supported by the development of behavioural habits. During the pandemic our behavioural patterns have been disrupted. So, I am concerned that those living with obesity may be finding it harder to maintain their health behaviours. And, if that was not enough, we have never been closer to our fridges than we are now. Survey data has suggested that this is a good news/bad news issue. Apparently, more people are cooking and eating with families, but also snacking more and consuming more alcohol. So, I am concerned that those living with obesity might be struggling with their eating behaviours during the pandemic.
Notice that I am expressing concern about how COVID-19 is impacting those living with obesity. I do not know if these concerns are true or not. Because of this, along with my colleague Dr. Stephen Glazer (a medical specialist, an internist, from Toronto) we are launching an online survey for those living with obesity. This survey can be accessed from the link below. There are a number of sections to this survey because we would like to complete a comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on individuals living with obesity. This survey has been approved by an ethics review board and is voluntary for anyone interested.
Thanks and good luck,
Michael Vallis, PhD R Psych
Associate Professor, Family Medicine