During the pandemic, 42% of American adults have unintentionally gained weight. The average gain was 29 pounds. Because of the restrictions and fears caused by the pandemic, 60% of people say losing weight has become more difficult since the arrival of COVID-19. Grief, trauma, and isolation are all serious issues that some people turn to in an attempt to cope with them. Others even shy away from losing weight.
Even before the pandemic, obesity was a major health problem facing the country. Despite its prevalence, only 56% of physicians feel they qualify to treat obesity, and even fewer feel they are successful in doing so. Less than 0.5% of physicians in North America are specially trained to deal with obesity. How can the number of obese patients and the number of doctors qualified to treat obesity be unequal? The problem of obesity in America cannot be solved without the help of knowledgeable doctors.
One of the hardest things about going to the doctor as a fat person is judging. The Johns Hopkins Center found that 21% of overweight patients felt judged by their primary care physician and were less likely to trust that person’s advice as a result. 55% of obese patients are concerned about their weight to the point of canceling the appointment. Furthermore, patients who are overweight are more likely to change doctors frequently, causing inconsistent care and increased chances of landing in the emergency room.
Weight loss drugs are underutilized in the current environment. Less than 3% of all eligible patients are prescribed weight-loss medications. While it may be true that not everyone who is overweight should turn to medication to shed their pounds, it is also true that many currently untreated individuals can benefit from adding medication to their weight loss journey. The problem is not the drugs themselves. 77% of current weight loss prescriptions are for phentermine. Phentermine was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1959, so its effects in humans have been well studied. Patients can lose between 7 and 8 times their body weight with exercise and diet alone during the same period.
Link to mental health
Another uncommon area of weight loss is mental health. Weight issues have a profound impact on mental health, not just physical health. 80% of people with serious mental illness are overweight or obese. Memory and mental processes can be affected by mental illness, making it difficult for patients to learn new habits, maintain motivation, and adopt appropriate weight loss behaviors. For some people with depression, emotional eating is a coping mechanism. Half of adults who reported a history of binge eating also had depression.
Even for those who are able to lose weight, keeping the pounds off is no easy feat. 97% of dieters regain everything they lost (or more) within 3 years. Losing weight does not automatically improve a person’s mental health, even if some physical aspects improve. Losing weight is harder than most diet programs want you to believe. Weight can be multiple issues wrapped together.
Brian Wallace is a columnist for the Grit Daily. He is an entrepreneur, writer, and podcast host. He is the founder and president of NowSourcing and has been featured in Forbes, TIME, and The New York Times. Brian previously wrote for Mashable and currently writes for Hacker Noon, CMSWire, Business 2 Community, and more. His Next Action podcast features entrepreneurs trying to reach the next level. Brian also hosts #LinkedInLocal events across the country, promoting the use of LinkedIn among professionals wanting to grow their careers.