By Sara Kevern*
Q: I have gained a lot of weight since March after the start of the shelter in place, and continued to gain throughout the year due to COVID restrictions, stress, etc. Is CMT making this worse? What can I do about it?
A: First of all, you’re not alone! This is one of the most common things I’ve heard from patients and clients in recent months. Weight gain during the last 9 months or so is very common. For most people it has been a combination of stress, uncertainty, depression, lack of routine, inability to fit in traditional physical activity, and lots of free time to eat.
If it took you 9 months (March to December) to gain the weight, you can count on it taking at least 9 months to lose again. That said, it is most likely going to take even longer because weight loss is inherently more difficult than weight gain. The bottom line is to adjust your expectations and try to exercise patience during the process. The most important thing is to just keep going, stay consistent, and try not to let the slow progress derail you. If you have a tough day, making small progress and steps forward is always better than staying off track.
CMT itself is likely not slowing your weight loss, although you may be limited in physical activity which can make weight loss more difficult. When we discuss losing weight what we’re really talking about is creating a calorie deficit. Calories in must be less than calories out in order to lose weight. Exercise alone is unlikely to be enough to promote weight loss without dietary adjustments. Exercise helps create a larger calorie deficit and has more benefits including muscle health, cardiovascular health, mental health, etc. so it is important to exercise regularly on this path to weight loss. Diet, however, is going to have the highest impact on weight loss. Eating less, but still above the basal metabolic rate, is the target to hit. For most women BMR is 1200-1500 calories per day; men are 1500-1800 calories per day. Eating significantly less than your BMR may actually stunt your weight loss efforts.
It may help to really examine your eating habits during the shelter in place and identify the parts that significantly changed from what you were doing before. Those are the parts of the diet to target and try to work on. There is not one general recommendation for everyone to help lose weight, it’s a matter of looking at your individual habits and making adjustments for the most success.
Don’t give up! Working on your diet and exercise on a daily basis will yield results over time, but it will likely take longer than you hoped.
*Sara Kevern, RD, CNSC
Clinical Dietitian III
Sara Kevern is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Support Specialist at Stanford Health Care and Stanford Children’s Health. She joined the Neuromuscular team in 2019 to inaugurate and build nutrition services. She works as part of the multi-disciplinary clinic where she provides Medical Nutrition Therapy to those patients diagnosed with neuromuscular disorders. Sara completed her training at Ohio University and has been practicing as a clinical Registered Dietitian for 8 years.