OPINION: Forget face masks – shifting ‘Lockdown Lard’ is the way to combat Covid-19

PUBLISHED: 10:24 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:24 27 August 2020

If you've found yourself eating more junk during lockdown, you might want to think about shifting some extra weight, says Rachel Moore

If you've found yourself eating more junk during lockdown, you might want to think about shifting some extra weight, says Rachel Moore


Rachel Moore says we’re avoiding the big issue if we think face masks and handwashing alone will stop us getting Covid-19

Diligent handwashing, keeping a safe distance and a swanky face mask collection is all well and good, but our best insurance to swerve Covid-19 is to lose weight.

If you’re carrying even a few extra pounds, odds are already stacked against you. Obesity increases risk of Covid-19 death by nearly 50%. A terrifying statistic and far higher than global experts thought.

If this doesn’t shock people into losing weight what will?

Perhaps this week’s revelation that a successful vaccine won’t work well for overweight people might.

Scientists say all the cards are stacked against the obese. But they’re still not listening – even though fear is the population’s current setting.

Fear of Covid, fear of the fear of Covid, fear of getting out and about, fear of going back to work, fear of sending children back to school, fear that the invisible virus lurks where we least expect it.

But the clearest protection from this fear, other than thorough hand washing, is maintaining a healthy weight. But people still have their fingers in their ears, blocking out the advice. Lalalala. It’s just too difficult.

The hard facts are clear – our immune system and ability to fight infection is compromised by extra weight. Flab around our stomachs – visceral fat – produces chemical signals making our immunity less effective, so anyone who is obese is at twice the risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus. Twice. A big statistic.

That means a 63% of adults in England. Another big statistic. A scary 63% of adults in England are overweight or obese. Many have obesity-associated conditions, are on multiple medications and their ‘organ ages’ are much older than they actually are.

Obesity-related illnesses currently cost the NHS £6 billion a year. One in three children leaving primary school are overweight or obese.

This week, scientists in the most comprehensive study revealed that once a vaccine is available, it won’t work well on overweight people.

And that’s more of us now after four months of lockdown. We’ve all joked about our ‘Lockdown Lard’ and ‘Covid Cushions’. It’s so easy to gain a stone comfort eating without realising but a huge challenge to lose it.

Sales of booze, snacks and ice cream soared during lockdown and two-thirds of British adults say they had put weight on, comfort eating to get through difficult times.

But losing a stone or more now is the best way to approach post-Covid life, especially with winter and a talked-of second spike on its way.

Shrink in September should be the national campaign.

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Just how much we hold the power to reverse the damage we are doing to our bodies by eating too much is illustrated by Michael Moseley’s Lose a Stone in 21 days on Channel 4 this month.

Adopting a Mediterranean low-carb diet of 800-1000 calories a day can dramatically reduce a person’s heart age and reverse the chances of diabetes.

So why, if tweaking lifestyle can extend life span and banish life-threatening conditions so quickly, why aren’t we doing it?

It’s depressing that people would rather pump themselves full of medication, be uncomfortable and unhealthy than doing something about it, choosing to stare death in the face, costing the NHS and missing out on so much life than taking their own future into their own hands.

Rishi Sunak’s Eat out to Help Out hasn’t helped.

In a curry house this week, having my one and only EATHO experience – I can’t be the only person to feel guilty about public money paying for half my vegetable saagwala knowing my sons will end up paying for the billions of pounds racked up all their working lives?

Looking around the restaurant, about 80% fell into the need to lose weight category. But they were there, piling up their plates because it was half price, not because they needed it.

Eat Double, Pay Half would have been a more fitting title.

I’m still trying to work out how the invitation to gluttony fits with the government’s Better Health campaign trying to get us all to lose weight.

But then we’re all slippery and in denial about how much we eat. Only 10% of British people who are clinically obese admit they are, thinking they are ‘a bit overweight’.

Women see it more than men, apparently.

Now we know the facts, and that a successful vaccine won’t be effective, it’s irresponsible to carry on.

Parents are kicking up a fuss about sending children back to school next week but are willingly overweight?

The professor behind the global study at the University of North Carolina was shocked at just how at risk the obese really were. If it shocks the scientist, we should be petrified.

Exercise doesn’t work alone. Key to weight loss is eating less. Smaller portions of healthy food.

It might feel like a person sentence, but it’s better than death or being wired to a ventilator in a coma for months, which is the reality.

Time really is of the essence here. It’s important to start getting in shape, right now.

And only we can do it for ourselves.

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