APU Diseases Exploring STEM Health & Fitness Nursing Podcast

Podcast: The Complexities of BMI, Obesity and COVID-19

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Podcast by Dr. Bjorn Mercer, DMA, Department Chair, Communication and World Languages and
Dr. Jameelah Powell, Nursing Faculty, School of Health Sciences

Body mass index, or BMI, is a common tool used to measure a person’s body fat based on their height and weight. However, this number does not actually reflect a person’s whole health. In this episode, Dr. Bjorn Mercer talks to APU professor Dr. Jameelah Powell, a nurse and healthcare professional, about the complexities of BMI and what other factors need to be considered to help people develop truly healthy lifestyles. Learn how the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to widespread weight gain among adults and children and what people can do to develop good eating and exercise habits so they feel good in their body. 

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Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Hello, my name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer. And today, we’re talking to Dr. Jameelah Powell, nursing faculty in the School of Health Sciences. And today we’re talking about COVID-19 and obesity. Thank you, Jameelah.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Hi, thank you for having me back and thank you for inviting me. I appreciate it.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Of course, of course. And this is extremely important because all my life, that sounds funny, I’ve known my BMI. My mom was a nurse. And so, probably from the first time you could even know what a BMI was, I knew what my BMI. So, in a weird sense, I’ve been watching my BMI my entire life, which also adds to the complexity of the BMI. Let’s jump into the first question. Before we get started. Can you explain what BMI is? How it is used by governments to monitor populations, and also why is it imperfect?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Yes. So BMI is, how it’s been measured fatness, even though that’s not really what it’s measuring, but that’s sort of what it relates to. And it’s calculated by a person’s height and a person’s weight. And your body mass, so your weight is divided by squaring your body height. And so you get this number and it’s somewhere between, I don’t know, it could be a range between 15 and I think on the high end, 30 and up is considered obese. So there’s a range.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: How was it used by governments to monitor populations?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: So that’s kind of an interesting question because I used to work in the Department of Public Health and governments like to use data, to gather information about whole populations. They don’t really look at the individual or communities. They really like to look at populations.

And so the BMI was actually developed for that reason. It was developed to be able to allocate resources for people who needed those resources, with higher BMI’s or maybe really low BMI’s, to identify what support do they need?

And so I think public health agencies, anyway from experience, they use that data to figure out, what areas are in need of these services. Maybe we need to look at the schools inside there and start developing programs.

But something that I have been reading, which I kind of didn’t know about, which is interesting, because I used to work for an insurance company. Is that insurance companies actually are using BMI as a way to justify higher premiums for people with higher BMI’s.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: That is very interesting. From an insurance company’s perspective, I’ll say from their perspective, that makes sense. However, one of the things that I said is I’ve been watching my BMI my entire life because my mom was a nurse. And so when I was say 15, I looked my BMI and it categorized me as overweight. And then as I’ve lived and aged another 20 years, my BMI still categorizes me as overweight. Now, if I lose two pounds, then I’m not overweight. But at the cusp, the BMI categorizing some people as overweight, to me is very imperfect. Can you say something about that?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Absolutely. So the BMI, it’s funny, you were talking about, I can also understand why an insurance company would use BMI to justify higher premiums. I think the problem is BMI has been used so much that people have become… First of all, it’s a number really. It’s relative to what you are measuring.

And I think one of the inherent problems with this is that it was developed by a mathematician, not by somebody who is a physician or understands anatomy or understands body composition or anything like that. It’s about 200 years old. And when you develop something that’s that old, it doesn’t always correlate with the population you’re dealing with now. And it doesn’t necessarily take into consideration the possible homogenous population that it was being used for back then.

I mean, if you’re talking about BMI here in America, I mean, we have so many different cultures and so many different variations of body type, based on where they have come from originally, where that group of people have come from originally. And I think it can be a bit subjective of what we mean by what’s overweight, and what’s healthy.

If we look at modeling, and I’m just using this as an example, there are women who are six feet tall and weigh a hundred pounds. And that is something to be idealized. When, in reality, if we look at their BMI, they’re probably underweight.

So looking at a body type and then hearing BMI, there’s two different things I think that we are sort of gathering. And BMI doesn’t necessarily measure as the CDC actually says it does, it doesn’t measure fatness. What it measures is bigness. So someone who’s really tall and probably weighs more or someone like yourself, who’s probably pretty athletic. They generally get categorized as overweight because there’s a such thing as how much does your bones weigh, or how much does muscle weigh. I understand why BMI is used, but it’s a bit archaic. We’ll say that.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And I didn’t know that. So I didn’t know that it was invented so long ago and just looking it up, invented between the 1830s and 1850s in Belgium. Which if you know your European history at that time, a large portion of Europe was still poor, was essentially going through the industrial revolution that happened though, but they didn’t have a large middle class. Which was, like most of us, where we don’t do physical jobs. And so that totally makes sense. That it’s so old, yet it hasn’t adjusted.

And just like you said, it doesn’t account for tallness or muscle mass. And so, yeah, for me, in my own personal life, it really bothered me when I was a teenager. I can only imagine, and this is, I don’t know if this makes sense, but as a male, it bothered me, but then I was okay. I could see how as a female, it could really bother some girls and could actually hurt them longer-term.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I think you’re absolutely correct, because I think when we have these discussions and I’m actually glad that you mentioned it, the way that women and men are socialized is very different. And I brought the example of as a model because that’s sort of what’s on the magazine covers. That’s what people are aspiring to be. And it’s not necessarily healthy, but it’s being glorified as beautiful. And so when these girls who are of normal weight, see these models and they look at, “Oh, I’m 20 pounds over that, or I’m 10 pounds over that.” Now there’s this idea that they’re fat, and it’s really very unhealthy. And that’s why we have these mental health issues with anorexia and bulimia, which I do not believe was around as prolific as it is now. So I think that is a very important statement that you made.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah, that totally makes sense. And especially anorexia and bulimia, if you go back to Belgium in the 1830s, 1840s, I mean, most people would be working hard days all day long. The academics, the aristocracy, because, of course, in Belgium, they had Kings and Queens back then they would be sitting around all day. And so yeah, they can definitely gain some weight. But your average person much throughout all of history had to work physical jobs all day, every day. And the nutrition that they had was only as good as where they were. And so, one of the great things about today is that we have really the best nutrition you can ever imagine as humans could ever have in the history of humans, but yet it’s still difficult to get that good balanced diet. Why do you think today, with just a glut of food, we still struggle with good nutrition?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I think that’s a really good and very complex question, I think… And I hesitate because I don’t want to shame America, but we do live in a culture of gluttony and we do have an abundance of food, but what we don’t have is an abundance of good and healthy food. All food is not created equal. And I think it’s very difficult because there’s so many nuances. If something is, let’s say in a grocery store, even in a restaurant, if it’s publicized as being organic, automatically, it becomes healthy. But what is actually in that? It can be organic and still not be the best for you.

If we categorize something as low fat, or low carb and people hear that and they think that they’re eating healthy. I can tell you stories of my own mother, who I love dearly, but she will say, “Yeah, I’m eating this. It has carrots in it, so it’s healthier.” And I’m like, “No.”

That, I mean, just the idea that there is something healthier because you think it has something healthier in it is kind of a Catch 22 in and of itself. Because you think it’s healthy, then you think you’re eating healthy and you think you’re doing the right thing.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Exactly. It makes me think of the different diets that have come about. So the paleo diet, or if you have a vegan diet or vegetarian diet, or the carnivore diet. Each of these diets have wonderful strengths. For me being more vegetarian than anything. So the problem with being vegetarian is that you have a lot of natural carbs. So you’re actually eating a lot of carbs every day. And so you kind of have to monitor that because unlike animal protein, which is very lean, virtually no carbs or no carbs, I should say. With more vegetarian carbs and proteins, the proteins come with the carbs.

But then also with the paleo or the carnivore diet, then you’re eating a lot of meat, which is then having a lot of fat, a lot of high-saturated fat, which can be definitely a benefit. However, as with everything, it’s a balance, it’s always a balance. And one of my biggest criticisms of the American diet is that on average, each American that’s average, each Americans eats about 220 pounds of meat a year I believe it is. Now that is a lot of meat. And I’ll just say that…

And I did a podcast previously with Dr. Danny Welsh, where actually when you raise animals that actually contributes to climate change. It’s one of those weird things that you never hear in the news, but with so many millions, millions of animals out there who are eating and taking up space and eating other food, they’re actually contributing to climate change. Now, again, people can do whatever they want. If the average American went from 220 to 160 pounds, that could help in so many ways. Besides climate change, it could help in diet.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I would agree with that. I think what you said initially about these different diets and I don’t want to call them fad diets, but just these different options that are out there. They do come with their own advantages and disadvantages. And I think the average person, the layman’s person, doesn’t always know what that means.

Because being a vegetarian for some people just means I don’t eat meat, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not avoiding the Oreo cookies. And I’m saying this because I know people who eat this way, vegan and eat Oreo cookies or donuts, vegan donuts or whatnot. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re healthier. It just means that they are not eating meat.

And I think the problem with all of those diets is that there is a hard, fast rule that as long as I am paleo means that I’m eating these things. Well, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re eating the best of those things, or that you’re eating the amount of the healthier things that you should be eating.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: No, it’s true. Or if you’re a vegetarian or even vegan, you could be a carbitarian where you’re only eating carbs. Which again, is a good thing because they’re natural carbs, kind of natural sugars in apples and things like that. They’re definitely better than refined sugars that you would eat in Oreos. But, as a thing, you need to balance it out. And interesting thing about the BMI is how you look at different countries.

And the one stat that I think is a positive, but you have to use it carefully, is from the WHO. They monitor all the countries of the world. And they put 70% of Americans are overweight and 37.3% are obese. So, for this stat, the 37.3% is to me, the more concerning stat, which means almost 40% of Americans are obese. And if you compare America to the largest country, that has a better obese rate, which is Japan. And Japan is still 29% overweight, but only 4.4% obese. So as America, we have to think, what can we do to more emulate the Japanese die so our obesity goes from 37.3 down to 4.4. Now just from a healthcare and a nursing perspective, what would that do?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Oh. Well, see, this is where it kind of gets complicated because having a higher BMI in certain regards does correlate to having these sort of obesity-related issues. I read this example that I thought was pretty interesting, but essentially it’s saying if you’re obese, you probably have a higher BMI, but you having a higher BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re obese. If that makes sense. Yourself, you have a high BMI, but you’re not overweight. You know what I mean?

But there are most people who are obese are probably do have a higher BMI. And so what I’m saying is that, having a higher BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that you are unhealthy. Doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re eating the wrong things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to have those health issues, those sort of obesity related or associated health issues that you should have because you have a higher BMI.

So, when I hear places like Japan, yeah, I would imagine that they probably do have a much lower level of obesity there. But one of the other things I think of is they also have a higher stress level. There are also other issues with other things that you would think only people with higher weights have. High cholesterol and being honest myself, I’ve had high cholesterol since I was 15 and I’ve never been overweight, but it’s genetic. And so I guess one of the things I just want to make sure that I clear up, I guess, or clarify or mention, is that having a higher BMI doesn’t necessarily mean that you have those things, or sometimes that you’re even at risk of them.

I think as a whole, we can use BMI. When we do that, we filter out individuals and we filter out this sort of unique person, that’s a whole person, that may not actually have what you think they have just because of their BMI. I feel like BMI is a way to, that’s a time for you to start doing more testing than, “Okay, I see that your BMI is higher. So let’s do some skinfolds measures—because that’s another one. Or let’s measure your waist circumference because that’s actually a more accurate risk factor for some of these other diseases.” So it just gets kind of funny. I think Japan does have a pretty, I feel like they just eat a little bit cleaner if I’m being honest.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah. They’re diet is definitely more fish-based, much more vegetables. But at the same time, Japan has a very stressful culture. The work culture in Japan is worse than here. Where Americans love to work, but Japanese love to work even more. And so that also has terrible cardiac problems. You can stress yourself to a heart attack. So that’s not good either.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I also hear the rates of smoking are a little higher over there. So there are higher rates of hypertension. And as you said, sort of cardiac-related things, but even all of those can turn into diabetes as well. And you don’t have to be overweight to have diabetes. So, it’s very interesting.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Yeah. And my wife is at times pre-diabetic and she is not overweight at all. But after her, after our, second and third kid, she had gestational diabetes. And so she kind of has it. And so a lot of our diet changes, I guess I can say refining our diet, has really come because of that.

And for a lot of people, you do change your diet it’s because something happens and that’s okay. The most important thing is that you change your diet and you try to be healthy. That doesn’t mean that we don’t eat hamburgers. We do. Or enjoy some sweets. You do, you have to do that too, just to enjoy food. Eating can be such an emotional and pleasurable experience that you don’t take that away from people.

And I think maybe that’s part of the miscommunication with diets and everything’s like that where some people think, “Oh, you just want to take all the joy of food from me.” I’m like, “No, no, not at all. Just try to all to be healthy and still enjoy food.”

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I think that I would agree with that. And what’s even more to add even more complexities into this conversation is, obesity with children is very different from obesity in adults. And we were talking about childhood obesity and one of the things is kids have a very different distribution of fat as they go through different stages in their development. And so it’s kind of hard to identify even with them, what is obese.

Because the way that they do it with children is they compare it to other children. With adults, there’s just this standard. This is the range. But for kids it’s like, well, this is him or her compared to other kids, his or her age. And so it’s like, so what’s the population that you’re looking at? Because if I were to go into a place where people are bigger in general and I take a child who was of normal, average, we’ll say, BMI. And I placed them over there. Now, what does that comparison now look like? Because it looks like this kid is underweight.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: What happens if you have a family of linebackers, comparing the family of linebackers to a family of soccer players. The adult, maybe the dad or the mom or the dad soccer player is like 5’5″: short, fast, little forward. And then you’re comparing it to a family where the dad was 6’5″ and played tight end. I mean the completely different BMIs, completely different body structures, all of these different things that just add to it. And then the kids are going to mostly be like their parents in some ways.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Absolutely.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And then they’ll have those, the same weight and the different things. And yeah, obviously the linebacker family will be very different than the soccer family.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: That’s why I said, not to throw another wrench into this, but it’s kind of an interesting conversation if I’m being honest, because I understand why people use BMI. Just like you were saying with the insurance companies and whatnot. I understand why we want to use that tool. I think with anything, you have to also understand the complexities within BMI and, what does it actually mean? Because just saying, well, my BMI is high. So I must be fat. Is such a subjective and very loose and broad way to look at it.

Because again, you’re not looking at the unique person. You’re just saying, this is your height and this is your weight. And because of that, you are overweight. And first of all, that’s not what it was developed to be used for in the first place. This mathematician, he actually said, “Hey, this is not for an accurate description of fatness.”

But they wanted a tool to just be able to give resources to a population based on a number. And so I can see it being used in that way, but I feel like it’s being twisted in a manner where people now are basing their whole body on a number, which I think is a bit unfortunate, especially in sort of the society that we live in.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Oh 100%. And I always recommend people never look at their weight. Don’t weigh yourself. If you want to lose weight, that’s fine, but eat healthy and go on how you feel. Because if there is a number in your head and if you don’t make it, that can cause depression and it’s not worth it. It only depends on how you feel, talk to your doctor. But even then don’t go on a BMI number. Don’t go on an actual how much you weigh number, because each body is different. Just you like you said.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: If you look at someone who weighs 150 pounds, now that weight may look, it’s distributed differently in someone who’s 5’6″, someone who’s 5’5″, someone who’s six foot tall. And I think it’s not about how much you weigh, just like you said. Because you can be the way, that your fat is distributed throughout your body can be changing when you work out and you still may be the same weight. You may also be having more muscle mass. Bone density, if you are doing impact sports, your bones are probably a little heavier because your bones grow from the inside out and things that put impact on your bones actually help them to grow stronger.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And it totally makes sense. When I changed my workout routine from being about 95% cardio to now I’m 50/50, so I do 50% cardio, 50% weight training, I gained 10 pounds. So it was a little shocking because I was like, “Wait, I’m working out more,” but I just shifted from weight training to cardio and I gained weight, but it totally makes sense. Because I’m gaining muscle. And especially when you do a weight training, I believe that helps burn more calories over a longer period of time versus cardio. Cardio is always important, for heart health. But weight training, you have to have also in a balance.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I think I’m literally so glad that you said that because so many people have had that experience. And I think because they don’t see the weight coming off, they get discouraged. And I think it’s so unfortunate that people who are actually doing what they need to be doing to keep their heart healthy and circulating blood, which is important but also just feeling better in their body. And they get discouraged because the weight is not coming off as quickly as they think it should without realizing that sometimes it’s not about the weight coming off. It’s just about, are you toned? Are you fit? Are you gaining muscle mass?

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Exactly. And the media is terrible at this because then there’s these different articles like, how did this person get back to their weight after having a baby? Or Chris Hemsworth’s routine for X, Y, and Z. And it’s like, “Yeah, but they’re professional actors. That’s what they do.”

I would be more interested in Chris Hemsworth who has a regular job and has kids. And then also as an actor and somehow became Thor. Okay, that’s an interesting conversation. I don’t care about Hemsworth just being an actor and becoming Thor, of course.

And then even then when you read the articles about him, he ate nothing but chicken for certain shots in movies. That sounds terrible. Who would want to do that? It’s not healthy. And humans, aren’t naturally supposed to have six packs that show. And so if you don’t have a six pack, it doesn’t matter.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Absolutely. But again, this is sort of goes back to that body image, what we’re seeing and that’s what you were saying the media doesn’t help in this and they don’t. Who are they putting on the cover? What do they look like? Who is the most popular celebrity and why are they more popular and why are we talking about Aquaman’s abs? And I think that’s really important to highlight, because some of that is, it’s just the infrastructure of society and what we choose to focus on in the media and what we choose to look at. And what’s being highlighted in what kids are seeing.

And I do appreciate that it is much more of a struggle for the average person to, one, stay mentally healthy, right? Earn a living wage to support themselves. Exercise, and eat healthy. And I think there’s a bit of give and take with that, because some of that society, I do believe, has a responsibility in making things available and accessible. And having those resources. And then of course, there’s always your individual, sort of, what you believe you should be doing. You have that intrinsic factor within yourself to want to be healthy as well, but it goes two ways.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Oh, completely. And so this leads us to our other question: COVID-19 has been difficult really for everyone. And according to different studies that have occurred over the last year, both adults and kids have gained weight because of COVID. Why do you think this happened? And is there anything we can do about it?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Yes. I think a great majority of adults gained weight during COVID. And that was for, I think, many different reasons. One, stress, some people are stress eaters and even people who weren’t stress eaters I think, were just coping with something that they never thought in a million years that they would have to deal with.

I am one of them. I picked up some very bad habits during COVID and I am, I feel I have a pretty, I feel like I can avoid things pretty well, but for some reason, during COVID it felt like potato chips and cookies were my friend, unlike any other time in my life, even as a child.

And, I think for a lot of people, it was the stress of COVID. It was also the stress of being in a household with people all day long that they weren’t used to being in a household with. And possibly having access to food that they don’t usually have access to because they’re at work or at school.

And I also think that just being at home now being more sedentary, because first of all, you’re isolated. So you’re not getting up and going to the water cooler and talking to your friend. Or I’m going to run a memo over to somebody. Or take something to them. Everything is being done digitally or electronically. And I think that just reduces how much activity you are doing.

And I can speak from personal experience. I was actually working behind my desk, literally eight hours a day to the point where my feet were actually getting swollen because I just was not getting up enough and I just wasn’t walking around enough. But I was doing my job and there was really no need for me to get up because I’m at my computer doing everything that I need to do from here.

And I think people just weren’t aware of that. And I also feel like it’s a busy thing when you just are bored, maybe sitting in front of your computer, you’re just eating and you’re snacking. And you’re not moving as much as you used to be.

And I did see a study from, I think it was the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, did a study. And I think 42% of adults said that they’d gained weight during the pandemic. And how much they gained was sort of, I want to say it was between 10 and 15 pounds. So it was really interesting.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: And it totally makes sense, because COVID has been jarring for everyone. And of course, for those who did succumb to the disease, has been a very, very difficult and very sad. And it’s a very complex issue besides just COVID.

But going along with the weight now, I’ve been working from home for several years before COVID. And so when COVID happened, I was just at home. And I think my wife and I were very lucky in the sense that we had just created our workout room. We’re very lucky to have an extra room. And so we had a workout room. And then for me like you, I can sit at my desk for eight to 10 hours a day. I could just sit there all day.

And so what I do in my day is I schedule a workout almost every day, because then that gets me up and gets my blood flowing. I think one of the things about working from home is that obviously you’re not working out, I mean, potential clots. I mean, that’s a little extreme, but if you don’t do that, that could be a negative for your health. Even if you are a “normal” weight, because you’re just not moving. For anybody who works from home, I recommend make sure that your workout routine is right in the middle of the day, if possible.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: There are people who were, had been working from home already they were doing remote work beforehand. And so I think those people were probably maybe a bit more able to sort of manage it. But all of this was very new. And some of it happened, literally you were at work on Thursday and on Friday you’re telecommuting and you have to figure out how to telecommute within 24 hours.

And I think that was stressful. And I think people having to adjust to that, so abruptly, was very difficult. And so you weren’t used to, these are the rules of engagement when you work from home. Because I definitely learned, there are rules to working from home. You do have to get up, you do have to go outside, you do have to get some sun, you do need to socialize somewhere in that otherwise you can get very isolated.

And there’s nobody sort of checking that as well. There’s nobody coming in and say, “Hey, what are you doing?” Nobody. I know sometimes when I used to work for the Department of Public Health, there would be several people who would be on diets. And they had a checks and balance system because other people knew that and you’d be like, “Hey, that’s not… You sure you want to eat that? I have something else that you could eat. Some carrot sticks or something like that.” And I feel when you’re isolated and you’re working from home, you don’t have that. It’s just you, yourself, and you.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Since I’ve worked from home for such a long time, my snacks are always carrots, great, easy. Or cucumbers, or bell peppers. But it’s so easy because the chocolate is right next to the carrots. And the chips are just five steps away. Everything is there. And so I can see how, if you were in an office building in which you had to bring everything, or you’re like, well, I can go to the vending machine. Then it’s obviously bad for me. So I’m not going to spend a dollar, $1.50 on something that I know is bad for me. But at home it’s there.

And then the kids, we briefly talked about mental health, but with COVID and having your kids around you all the time can be very difficult too. And I could see if you’re in a city such as New York or Chicago, where green space is not as available. Again, I’m so lucky because our green space is literally five feet outside our door we live right next to a park. And so even when we were in COVID, we could just say, let’s go to the park for a while. But there’s, I’ll say millions of families and kids who just don’t have that green space right next to them. One of the most important things that kids do as it just in their own development is to get out. For adults, we need to exercise. For kids it’s to go out and play.

Dr. Jameelah Powell: Yeah. I think what you said, sort of hit the nail on the head because children gained a lot of weight as well. I mean, apparently even kids who were of normal weight, gained more weight than expected during COVID. And those who are already obese are already overweight, gained even more weight than what is usually expected during childhood. Because you’re going to gain weight when you’re a child, that’s what you’re doing. But they gained way and beyond what they would normally, what we would normally predict.

And a lot of that for kids, I feel, unfortunately, they were even worse off than adults. Because there was no way to communicate what they were feeling sometimes, what was going on with them. And like you said, I used to tell my students, my nursing students, I would say, what is the job of the child? It’s to play. And if they’re not playing, something’s wrong. And because they could not play, I feel like it really hit them, unfortunately, in some really bad places, which is again, why I go back to the mental health. And I think the kids really could not express what was going on. Just something was off.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: Exactly. And just like you said, play, physical play, outdoor play, is really what’s there. And it’s not playing video games and screen time. Because that’s a whole different problem. Obviously everything in moderation of course is fine, but when you’re stuck inside and for some people, again, whether there’s no green space, that’s a problem. And that again, a different conversation about games and video games and problem solving. There’s a lot of positives to it, but then there’s not. And so today we’re speaking to Jameelah Powell. Absolutely wonderful. Any final words?

Dr. Jameelah Powell: I think, again, don’t look at the number. When you are thinking about your health, look at how you feel, how you fit in your clothes. If there are certain clothes you want to wear and you want to look different in them, I want to feel like when I wear this, maybe I don’t see my stomach so much. Or whatever it is. Or if you just want to build muscle in your arms, it really is about how you feel, like you said. Not about the number.

And also, I just want to hit home that higher BMI does not necessarily mean that you are going to have these health issues. You can be underweight and have other health issues. It’s all relative. There are certain habits is really what determines some of these other things. So if you eat bad food, but even though you’re not overweight, you can still eat terribly and not be overweight. But that habit, that bad habit, or can lead to diabetes because you’re eating sugar all the time. Or can lead to hypertension because you’re eating all kinds of salty foods and fried foods or high cholesterol. So that’s what I would say, is be mindful of the habits that you have and what those can lead to.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer: I 100% agree. And thank you for an absolutely wonderful conversation. And so today we’re speaking with Dr. Jameelah Powell about COVID-19 and obesity. And, of course, my name is Dr. Bjorn Mercer. And thank you for listening.

Dr. Bjorn Mercer is a Program Director at American Public University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Missouri State University, a master’s and doctorate in music from the University of Arizona, and an M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Mercer also writes children’s music in his spare time.

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