Need a weight reset?
Find expert help to lose those pandemic pounds
by Julie Estlick
The past 18 months have disrupted routines and compromised public health in many ways. Eating, exercise, and stress levels were all impacted by the pandemic, leading to unwanted extra pounds for many of us. The fall season is a great time for a reset.
A survey earlier this year by the American Psychological Association found 61 percent of U.S. adults reported weight changes since the start of the pandemic, and 2 in 5 of the 3,000 respondents said they gained more weight than they intended at an average of 29 pounds per person. Ten percent reported gaining more than 50 pounds.
Having excessive body weight can carry a range of health risks that shouldn’t be ignored (see box), but losing weight and keeping it off is not a simple proposition. Finding a dietitian or medical provider with weight loss expertise who can help you create a personalized plan is a good first step, along with identifying a network of family and friends who will support you along the journey.
Registered dietitian Melissa Lanes says it’s no surprise that being stuck at home for more hours with access to our refrigerator and without our usual routines to keep us busy led to consuming more calories, and often burning fewer, week after week.
“People in stressful situations may eat more food, or just eat more calories, without realizing it,” Lanes says. “When we are stressed or anxious, we have a physiological response—the fight or flight response—which causes cortisol (a stress hormone) to flood through our body, increasing blood sugar levels and our appetite, and we crave sugary, salty, energy-dense foods.”
In fact, eating pleasurable foods can even stimulate the pleasure centers in your brain, she explains. Research suggests that as humans gain weight, pleasure sensations in the brain can become stronger when we eat foods that taste great. These sensations may not be as strong in someone with a lower body weight.
The complexities of understanding the root causes and behavior that lead to weight gain and the challenges of making long-lasting changes mean that most people are not successful losing weight and keeping it off on their own, Lanes notes.
Get the right help
“There are many websites, social media pages, and non-medical personnel out there who offer weight loss services or supplements to assist with weight loss, but these people are under no obligation to give you information rooted in science and medicine research,” says Dr. Anthony Millard, who specializes in obesity medicine at CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and is an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Millard collaborates with registered dietitians like Lanes, who work closely with patients to develop a dietary plan that is not overly restrictive and can be sustainable for the long term, and identify ways to move that are enjoyable and realistic for them.
Weight loss specialists also understand how medical conditions or certain medications might impact weight gain or prevent weight loss. They can prescribe medications for appetite reduction and advise patients about other interventions for significant weight loss such as bariatric surgery or newer endoscopic therapies.
In addition, physical therapists, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists, and psychologists who specialize in weight management can offer guidance on physical activity and stress management as you work toward your wellness goals.
As Millard has learned: “It’s just a matter of finding the right path for each person.
CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center
Banner Fort Collins Weight Loss Center
Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center at Colorado State University