Will Smith says he's in the worst shape of his life and he's not alone

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A new survey reveals more than half of South Africans have put on weight during the pandemic.
A new survey reveals more than half of South Africans have put on weight during the pandemic.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Even celebs get real occasionally. And that’s what 52-year-old Hollywood star Will Smith did – and his fans loved it.

We are used to seeing him super cool and prepped for action movies, so hearts melted when he posted a picture of himself looking distinctly casual in an open top, no shirt and short shorts exposing a belly that regular people can relate to.

“I’m gonna be real wit yall - I’m in the worst shape of my life,” the caption read.

Many of his followers responded gratefully that the star exposed his human side and admitted he hasn’t been working out like a demon throughout the pandemic.

It seems he’s far from alone here in SA as well, as a recent study has shown that one of the effects of Covid-19 has been an increase in obesity.

Let it be said, Will Smith is very far from obese but he is proof of how easy it is to let things get out of hand.

A national survey commissioned by Pharma Dynamics paints a distinctly plump picture – more than half of South Africans gained weight during pandemic, with 69% bordering on obese.

According to the survey, 45% of respondents said lockdown regulations impacted their eating and exercise habits for the worse.

It found 44% picked up between 2-5kg, 15% were 6-10kg heavier, and 4% gained an extra 10kgs or more. On top of that, 42% were exercising less than before the pandemic.

Read more | Severe Covid-19 in young people can mostly be explained by obesity – new study

The survey has highlighted the long-term, negative effects lockdown regulations have on SA’s obesity epidemic, says spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, Nicole Jennings.

“Treats and calories are up, while exercise is down, which is never a healthy combination. Limited access to daily grocery shopping may have led to reduced consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in favour of highly processed food. In times of stress and uncertainty, people also find solace in comfort food, which tends to be low in nutritional value and high in carbohydrates, fats, salt and sugar,” Nicole says.

Stress certainly seems to have played a role, as 43% attributed their change in eating habits to stress and anxiety over what the future holds, while 42% said being confined to their homes also led to more snacking and impulsive eating, and 28% simply ate out of boredom.

The jump in weight increases the nation’s risk of hypertension, which already stood at 35% before the pandemic.

“The likelihood of hypertension developing in those who are obese is almost certain and it can result in serious health problems that are even more life-threatening than Covid-19,” Nicole says.

“To put it into context, 10 million people die every year due to hypertension complications alone – almost four times more than those who have died from Covid-19.”

She admits it’s going to be tough to change habits after a year of comfort-eating, but unhealthy lifestyle habits threaten our health and we need to make a change.

“Moving towards a healthier lifestyle is crucial, especially while we are still battling Covid-19. We need to give our immune systems everything it needs to fight back.

“When obese, your body is in a constant state of inflammation. Just a modest amount of weight gain in people who are hypertensive can increase their blood pressure to dangerous levels, which puts strain on their hearts and overall health,” Nicole adds.

Read more | 5 healthy rules to live by

The basics of improving your lifestyle include eating smaller portions of healthier foods and exercising more.

It’s also important not to rush your weight loss plan – studies show people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping weight off. 

Experts advise you make a plan that’s achievable for you

For example, you might want to eat healthier, reduce stress, increase your exercise routine, or diet more effectively. But it’s best to focus on one thing at a time and when that’s working well, you can move on to the next one.

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