Obesity is the root cause of many associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, joint-related issues, PCOS, lung and liver diseases, and certain cancers. Regular exercise is an integral part of the management of most non-communicable diseases. But sudden lockdown last year in March forced everyone to stay indoors. All the avenues for physical activity like gyms, parks, and yoga centers were shut. Many people who were already overweight and suffered from obesity had to battle further weight gain issues during the lockdown. Additional weight gain during the lockdown period has invited further health problems leading to further deterioration in the quality of life.
When it comes to weight gain during the lockdown, there are two groups of people- those who were normal weight before the lockdown and those who were already living with obesity or were overweight. During the lockdown, many people in both groups gained weight. Many normal-weight people also gained between 2 to 5 kgs during the lockdown. Those who suffered from type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure experienced an increase in blood sugar levels and blood pressure levels along with weight gain. Interpersonal, job-related, and financial difficulties added to the strain and anxiety leading to altered sleep cycles.
Many patients with obesity who had consulted for bariatric surgery in February and March 2020, had to wait as elective surgeries were put on hold. Some patients like Alok Shah (name changed) are coming back with significant weight gain. Alok (name changed), who is an IT professional from Bangalore, struggled with weight issues all his life. He was jolted out of his normal routine owing to the additional weight gain during the lockdown. He had an online consultation with Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker and reported his weight to be around 156 Kg. Lockdown worsened his physical condition and he started having difficulty in walking even a few steps. He started getting severe knee joint pain, was acutely breathless and even day-to-day activities were becoming a burden. He started feeling sleepy during the day and was unable to focus on work.
Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker, an accomplished and renowned Bariatric Surgeon and Laparoscopic Surgeon, said, “There are many patients like Alok who are complaining of significant weight gain amid Lockdown. After a detailed online consultation, the patient visited me in the first week of December 2020. He was shocked to see that his weight was actually 187 kg and not 156 kg. It was almost 30 kgs more than what he thought. At such a high weight, unless the patient visits a hospital, it is difficult to measure the exact weight on home scales. At the age of 36 years, he was feeling as though he was already 66-years-old. After preparation for about ten days, Alok underwent bariatric surgery in the form of laparoscopic gastric bypass in the third week of December 2020. In this surgery, a small pouch of the stomach is created using staplers and the small intestine is attached to the pouch in a Y-shaped fashion. This leads to a reduction in food intake, feeling of fullness, reduced hunger, and multiple hormonal changes that lead to gradual weight loss. He has done very well and has already lost 30 kgs in the last 3 months. He will continue to lose weight for about 12 to 16 months. As a bariatric team we will continue to support him lifelong,” said Dr. Aparna.
Obesity has also been implicated as a poor prognostic factor even for Covid 19 infection. Patients who suffer from obesity and Covid 19 infection have been seen to need more frequent hospital admissions and have a higher tendency to get transferred to intensive care units.
“I was always on the heavier side since my childhood. My lifestyle was also sedentary. Being an IT professional, I required to sit for long hours, life was stressful, and was unable to eat on time. This led to weight gain and my health kept deteriorating further. I would avoid socializing due to poor self-esteem. I even found it difficult to find clothes of my size. I could hardly walk and was unable to do my daily chores. Life became difficult but I thank Dr Aparna for helping me get back on track. I have lost a lot of weight, started exercising, and following a well-balanced diet,” concluded patient Alok (name changed).