For people living with obesity, life during a pandemic is especially daunting.
Underlying all the messages about why it is vital to limit our social interactions is a terrifying reality: people who struggle with their weight — and all the concomitant issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure — are more likely to die from COVID-19.
That means every little decision can seem fraught with life-vs-death consequences. Anxieties become heightened. Goals for a healthier lifestyle seem unattainable.
And yet, the staff at the Medical Weight Management Centre have found reasons for hope during these challenging times. Although patients have been staying safe by staying at home, online therapy sessions have been proven to be highly popular — and successful.
“Human beings can’t live alone, even those who are comfortable with solitude,” says Dr. Michael Lyon, the centre’s medical director. “We all need social connection. This is vital to our survival. Our online meetings are a pretty good facsimile of the real thing. For many clients, it’s actually been more efficient and effective to meet online.”
Online therapies include food addiction, binge eating, anxiety, cognitive behaviour therapy, mindfulness, diabetes support, problematic alcohol consumption, making healthy food choices and even meal planning with ingredients that can be stocked in the pantry.
“It’s giving our patients an anchor and a focus away from the news. Instead, their attention is on what they can do. Our goal is to have people come through this catastrophe healthier, happier and more at peace,” he says.
Not only are clients realizing the benefits of being able to stay at home while accessing the clinic’s individualized services and group workshops, but the clinic’s embrace of technology is also making those services much more accessible.
“We have developed a very comprehensive approach and there are no other programs, anywhere, that offers the breadth of services that we do. For individuals who are struggling with obesity, very little has been available to them unless they lived close to our clinic, which is in Coquitlam. Now we can help people from anywhere in the province,” Dr. Lyon says. “All through the pandemic our doctors have been seeing patients. We’re available and fully engaged.”
Senior couple. Photo: Getty Images
A doctor’s referral is necessary to become a patient of the clinic; there have to be medical reasons for the need to manage their weight. The initial consultation with the clinic’s medical staff is done via a secure internet video platform, also known as telemedicine. For the time being, there are no in-person consultations. Many patients have appreciated not having to travel to the clinic and gather in the waiting room.
“A diet is of no value if you don’t have the mental clarity and inner sense of direction to follow along with it,” he says. “For most people, their lives are too difficult to endure one more hardship, which is a restrictive diet. You need to give people a different foundation from which to make a healthier change. The paradox is that they might be dying because of their weight, and you can’t minimize that they may be losing 10 or 20 years of their lifespan because of it, but you can’t use some quick-fix approach.”
For some patients, bariatric surgery is the best solution.
“It’s a surgery that saves lives,” says Dr. Lyon.
Although elective surgeries were cancelled during the initial stages of the pandemic response, the staff at the Medical Weight Management Centre have continued to guide patients through the necessary process of preparing medically and psychologically for bariatric surgery.
“We have a very special relationship with the bariatric surgical program. Our patients are not on a lengthy wait list for the surgery. Instead, we work with patients until they are ready for surgery, and, when they are ready, their suirgery is usually done within a few weeks.”
As difficult as the real-life consequences of pandemic have been, Dr. Lyon wants people to find hope in the future. There have been relatively few deaths in British Columbia and as a province we can be proud of how well we have handled this great crisis.
“If you’re doing everything you’re told to, you don’t have to fear. It could change but so far we’re doing extremely well. We will come through this.”
To find out how the Medical Weight Management Centre can help you attain a healthier life, visit this website or call 604-777-5500.
This Content is made possible by our Sponsor; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff.