Delhi is getting fatter. Is WFH to blame?


New Delhi

For many Delhiites, the shift to WFH set-up may have been the silver lining of Covid-19. But if you’re struggling to fit into some old clothes now as office beckons — courtesy all the movie marathons, prolonged sitting and never-ending work hours — don’t panic! You’re not alone. The fifth National Family Health Survey revealed that almost 40% people in Delhi are either overweight or obese. And denizens who are on a mission to lose lockdown kilos, mostly blame WFH as the culprit behind the uptick in waistline and readings on the weighing scale.

What do denizens say?

Ashok Vihar-based Kanika Kashyap, 26, who works as a clinical investigator with a health-based group, says, “It’s been 1.5 years since I’ve been working from home. Due to laid-back schedules and more time-consuming projects, my meal times were haphazard. Late night hunger pangs during binge watching sessions led me to gain about seven or eight kilos. I finally realised how severely bad my lifestyle had become and have recently started correcting my meal timings. I’ve even taken to yoga and resorted to home-cooked food and fresh fruits, and vowed to use food delivery apps only once in 15 days.”

Model Town-based Sanjay Sharma, a 23-year-old social media manager, says: “When I started working from home, I felt like eating all day, which led to weight gain. And I didn’t get enough exercise due to limited movement. I’ve been so sluggish that my sleep cycle has been completely disrupted, and I didn’t even have access to gym so I’ve gained too many kilos. In the pre-Covid times, I used to hang out with my colleagues after lunch at work and that accounted for some activity. But working from home eliminates that too.”

For west Delhi-based Smriti Nair, a 24-year-old pharma professional, the second lockdown is to be blamed for her extra pounds. “Earlier, I was working in Bengaluru where I had a field job and was on the move almost all the time. When I came to Delhi in April due to the lockdown, it was a sudden weight gain that shot up from 70 to 80kg in just three months. Maybe one of the major causes can be stress eating because I did that a lot due to the increased work pressure. I was in Delhi, my team was in Bengaluru, and it was getting a bit disorganised; this had a negative impact on achieving my targets. The extra 10 kilos that I put on manifested a drastic change in my body. I was tired all the time. Once the weight increases, it also changes the way you walk, sit, and carry yourself. Then one day, I finally decided to do something about this and joined a gym. Now I’ve been eating all types of foods but at regular intervals and only in small proportions, and I religiously follow this routine.”

Expert speak

Dr Varun Katyal, nutritionist and wellness expert, says, “In the last couple of months, among the clients who are consulting me for a diet programme to lose weight, a considerable number is from Delhi. Many of us spend only about seven hours out of every 24 hours in a day, standing and moving. Sedentary lifestyles can cause us to burn around 100 fewer calories a day than we did some 50 years ago, which alone can translate into an extra 10 pounds of weight gain in a year. Also, there are usually many more food triggers at home than in an office.”

Dr Zubeda Tumbi, clinical nutritionist, says, “I’ve seen a rise in cases of obesity, especially central obesity, which is excessive waistlines. Every third patient that now comes to me has this problem. There are also people coming in with complaints of back, knee and cervical pain because of the excess work hours in sitting position. Sometimes people work on their laptops while lying down on the bed, and they work till 2 or 3am! Then they don’t wake up early, and subsequently get late for breakfast. It’s a sad, vicious cycle that has set in.”

Tanya Malhotra, a city-based fitness expert and trainer says, “Constantly sitting in one place and working without breaks for long durations has definitely added to the lack of active hours for many in the Covid times. Additionally, many of my clients have mentioned about endless cravings for snacks amid work, which is not the case while working in an office environment. Stress is one of the major factors that leads to unnecessary cravings and WFH gave people the chance to munch on snacks while working from their couches, leading to excess ‘boredom snack’ calorie intake and weight gain.”

How to offset?

When you are in a WFH set-up, the so-called issue of ‘see-food diet’ increases your chances of weight gain as one tends to eat more when they can spot food near them. So, experts suggest that one needs to reduce the exposure to these psychological cues. “After all, it’s all in your head,” says Katyal. Health experts also advise people to consider quick and effective physical activities such as 30 minutes of HIIT, jogging, and home workouts to stay active amid a tight and busy schedule. “People must schedule short breaks and walks around the house or do a quick stretch whenever possible,” adds Malhotra.

Author tweets @siddhijainn

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