Recent months have seen plenty of proper research closely linking being overweight with the likelihood of succumbing to coronavirus and a poor outcome if it is contracted. Experts from Glasgow University found obesity raised the risk by 2.3 times, and simply being overweight by 1.6.
No wonder leading UK expert on weight and health, Professor Susan Jebb, shouting the message that it’s vital to try to get – or stay - as fit and healthy as possible in these worrying times and in the months ahead. Jebb has urged people not to buy biscuits and to use being stuck at home to get their cravings under control.
But for the majority of people in the UK who are overweight/obese, it is not, especially during these strange and difficult times, a simple matter to shed surplus stones quickly and healthily.
In fact, the opposite seems to be true. It’s ironic that, faced with the need to be more fitness and weight conscious, many of us have actually put ON weight and been LESS active since lockdown began.
Even the fitness guru Joe Wicks has admitted to eating a lot more than usual during lockdown. And TV Judge Rob Rinder says he’s put on a stone and a half in the past couple of months!
A recent survey by King's College London found that one in three of us has eaten more food or less healthy food than normal, one in five are drinking more alcohol – a shoe-in for weight gain - and half of us say we have felt more anxious or depressed than normal.
Boris himself admits to carrying too many inches round his middle – but at least he’s trying to lead by example, and has stepped up his exercise regime.
Me? I’m spending my time at home trying to find edible recipes to use up the half ton of canned and dried food and all manner of unidentifiable frozen objects I bought a couple of months ago when the threat (and occasional reality) of shortages appeared. Sadly many aren’t that healthy or low in calories. I did a nice crab pasta the other day with tinned crabmeat but it involved amounts of cream I dare not mention.
On the other hand, I was delighted with my invention of a home-made hummus using tinned chickpeas and a load of roasted butternut squash, plus the usual ingredients of oil, tahini, lemon juice and so on. It was lovely! Served with (almost out of date) wholemeal pittas and a huge salad with the first pickings from our garden (thank goodness lockdown has made me start vegetable and greenhouse gardening again after a year-long hiatus) it was very healthy and not too calorific… and a great use of the storecupboard, and the squash which had been sitting patiently on a rack for weeks, waiting for me to be bothered to use it.
We’re walking – we feel so very lucky to live surrounded by plenty of walks with few people around, and of course gardening is exercise in itself. And I’m trying to be thankful for all kinds of things. That we live in a social media world so even if we can’t hug the grandkids yet we can see and chat to them. That the lockdown seems to have worked well to get this nasty and frightening disease under control.
And that at last, we need not feel ashamed for wanting our bodies to be a bit slimmer. Whatever the body positivity movement has had to say, with an increasingly loud voice, over the past few years and however much it has persuaded many of us that however big we are, it’s just fine and we should be proud of our size, now we DO have a very, very valid reason to get in shape, lose pounds or stones if we need to and not have to feel guilty about it. And I can add here that in the past couple of years there have been several worldwide scientifically-conducted studies refuting the body positivity claim that it is possible to be very overweight and also fit and healthy.
So I hope that whatever happens in the future, the very many links (and these, believe me, are wide-ranging, aside from Covid-19) between our size, our fitness, our health and chances of longevity, stay at the forefront of our minds and continue to give us the motivation we need to be in good shape throughout our lives.
And I think that Boris, in between his jogs, probably needs to be even tougher on food manufacturers and retailers so that each one of us trying to get or stay in shape finds it easier to buy healthy items, ingredients, ready meals and so on, than it is to impulse buy all those lockdown ‘treats’.
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