By Dr. Christina Sanders

The stress and depression of having to stay home, combined with the fear and grief wrought by the pandemic resulted in many people abandoning their healthy habits, and replacing them with emotional eating, overeating due to boredom, reduced physical activity, and increased alcohol consumption.

While everyone understands the term “quarantine 15,” the American Psychological Association reports that 42 percent of U.S. adults gained an average of 29 pounds, and that one out of 10 gained over 50 pounds. This is concerning since, prior to the pandemic, 42 percent of U.S. adults already met the criteria for obesity — having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, fatty liver disease, arthritis, obstructive sleep apnea, some cancers, and serious illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. While assuming a more relaxed lifestyle helped many to cope during the pandemic, it also resulted in unhealthy consequences.

Losing the “quarantine 15” will not be hard for most people who assume healthier habits through diet and exercise. However, for those who were already obese, these measures may not be enough. Typically, significant weight loss requires a multidisciplinary approach that involves a care team of physicians, nurses, dietitians, behavior therapists, and exercise specialists. To formulate an effective treatment plan, the team looks at each individual’s unique situation to develop an approach that includes diet, exercise, behavior modification, possible treatment for depression, weight loss medications, and bariatric surgery.

Although the thought of surgery can be scary, it is one of the most effective approaches to maintaining long-term weight loss with benefits that far outweigh the risks. It means having a professional team that can help you successfully achieve your goals. The risk of any serious side-effects or death from bariatric surgery is also extremely low at .03 percent, as compared to the risk associated with a diabetes-related complication at 4.5 percent.

The most common bariatric surgeries are laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy and laparoscopic gastric bypass. Approval for the surgery requires a BMI of at least 40, or a BMI greater than 35 with at least one obesity-related condition, such as diabetes, hypertension, or sleep apnea. Individuals who undergo bariatric surgery do so under the care, guidance, and post-surgical and ongoing follow-up by your team. In addition to weight loss, bariatric surgery helps with the remission and prevention of obesity-related diseases. In fact, the surgery is associated with an 80 percent remission rate of diabetes.

It is important to know that obesity is a chronic disease that is affected by our environment, and that weight gain associated with the pandemic is understandable. It is also important to know that obesity is associated with devastating health effects. Learn more about how a multidisciplinary team can help you reach your goals to lose weight and get healthier by visiting, or call 716-565-3990 to make an appointment.

Christina Sanders, DO, FACS, FACOS, is a Bariatric Surgeon at ECMC Synergy Bariatrics.