Coronavirus Chronicles — The Pain of Adaptation

Although for many people, physical exercise is an important part of their program to vanquish obesity, a contrary belief holds that exercisers tend to negate their extra physical activity by eating more. There is a study of Ecuadorian children that we will surely mention again, of which journalist Gretchen Reynolds wrote in The New York Times,

When children gain excess weight, the culprit is more likely to be eating too much than moving too little… The findings also raise provocative questions about the interplay of physical activity and metabolism and why exercise helps so little with weight loss, not only in children but the rest of us, too.

Disappointment with an effort that does not immediately produce an astonishing change can discourage people from pursuing change at all. Perhaps the best thing for people is to disconnect the idea of weight loss from the idea of exercise, and eliminate that mental link when arranging their daily routines.

This is especially important in a time when many Americans are constrained by circumstances from using the means and facilities they were accustomed to. Maybe the neighborhood gym only allows six people in at a time, or maybe the financial crisis of the pandemic closed it forever. According to The Wall Street Journal, gyms have been one of the hardest-hit industries. The cost of cleaning products alone is significant.

Formerly devoted customers have been forced to cut expenses, and neglected to renew their memberships. As a result, an estimated three million health club jobs have vanished. Huge companies, including the iconic Gold’s Gym, have gone bankrupt.

Belief systems clash

Financial pressure is not the only factor that makes things difficult. For adults, the conflict has encroached on what used to be one of the most ideology-free environments existing in the country. Now, some people refuse to work out in a face mask, while others will shun a gym that does not require masks.

Some wonder whether spacing the stationary bikes farther apart even helps to prevent the spread of aerosol droplets. Others are so eager, they will sneak into a closed gym with keys they previously had, or tell the press that even though they gave up restaurant dining and travel, a gym workout is the only “risk activity” they can’t abandon.

Businesses are willing to adapt and cater more to the at-home fitness buffs, which is lovely, except that the pandemic is also causing people to lose their homes. If the choice is between paying rent or buying a set of kettlebells, rent tends to win. Still, people who have equipment at home, and even those who are working with minimal environmental support, like a floor and a stairway, can buy streaming classes from their gyms or find guidance on YouTube for free.

And they may not be primarily seeking weight loss, but a whole spectrum of benefits that accrue from exercise, some of which undoubtedly connect indirectly with weight loss. It is not only a physical quest but a psychological one as well.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Exercise vs. Diet? What Children of the Amazon Can Teach Us About Weight Gain,”, 02/24/21
Source: “Gyms Are Reopening, but Everything’s Different,”, 03/16/21
Image by Ms. Phoenix/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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