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Huntington-based docs recommend a 'diet' for town residents

Health experts, including Suffolk County Legis. William R. Spencer (D-Centerport) and Dr. David Buchin, director of bariatric surgery at Northwell Health-Huntington Hospital, are launching a virtual program aimed at keeping people from gaining weight during the lockdown — dubbed the "quarantine 15."  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Emotional eating triggered by stress and anxiety because of the COVID-19 pandemic has some Huntington-based doctors calling to put town residents on a “diet” to avoid weight gain.

Suffolk County Legis. William R. Spencer (D-Centerport), a medical doctor and chairman of the legislature's health committee, announced the first voluntary townwide virtual diet Wednesday.

Studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of coronavirus patients having a less favorable outcome in battling the disease, he said.

The diet eliminates junk food and recommends an exercise program to combat potential weight gain — nicknamed the “quarantine 15” — during the pandemic lockdown. The program includes free virtual yoga and exercise classes offered by local businesses and Facebook Live events hosted by a bariatric doctor to help stay on track.

“People are cooped up in their home and eating food that’s short of nutrition,” Spencer said. “COVID-19 has a much greater impact on people who have co-morbid conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and all of these things are associated with obesity.”

Some of the advice offered is eating fruits and vegetables, planning meals, weighing in regularly, exercising, getting ample sleep and hydrating.

Northwell Health-Huntington Hospital director of bariatric surgery Dr. David Buchin, joined Town Clerk Andrew Raia and Spencer at a news conference in Huntington announcing the initiative.

Buchin said people have gained an average of 15 pounds during the pandemic — birthing the phrase the “quarantine 15.” He said obesity and obesity-related co-morbidities kill about 300,000 Americans every year.

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“I will be conducting several Facebook Live events talking about how obesity and its risk factors put you at an even greater risk if you contract COVID-19,” Buchin said. “I’ll be talking about advice on how to control emotional eating and how to avoid comfort food and high carbohydrate rich foods and how to make healthy food shopping lists.”

More information on the diet initiative go to Buchin's LI Obesity Surgery Facebook page.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said the “diet” is only a friendly suggestion.

“It's a common-sense strategy, to eat healthy and stay fit in order to avoid risk factors that would increase our chances of needing medical attention,” Lupinacci said. “I've taken this advice myself, with daily walks at our parks or walking instead of driving short distances.”

He said the town has been working to keep its seniors exercising during the pandemic with basic mobility and stretching exercise videos that are broadcast on the town’s government access TV channels throughout the day.

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