Dr Eva Orsmond says lockdown has left many people struggling to maintain or lose weight.
She believes the obesity crisis in the country won’t be resolved without more people being able to access proper professional supports and education.
It comes as Dr John Conneely, one of the country’s leading bariatric surgeons, has warned the pandemic is likely to increase obesity in Ireland.
He’s warned that “stress, uncertainty, and repeated lockdowns have exacerbated” the situation for people suffering from obesity, and has called for officials to commit increased resources to tackling the problem.
CSO data released last week, meanwhile, showed that four in ten people said their consumption of junk food and sweets ‘increased’ since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr Orsmond – medical doctor and health advocate at Orsmond Clinics – told Newstalk Breakfast she agrees with Dr Conneely that the situation is ‘very concerning’.
However, she doesn’t believe the right solution is to offer more people the option of bariatric surgery, and argued that they instead need to be given supports such as practical weight loss & diet plans.
She observed: “Many people at the moment, it’s a struggle to maintain your weight if you are a lucky one who falls into the normal weight category.
“If you’re already carrying excess weight, that’s usually the result of comfort eating and unhealthy lifestyles. Of course, these lockdowns and restrictions are very seriously affecting our mental health.
“I sympathise with people, as food is almost at the moment the only comfort and entertainment we have left.”
Leading experts such as Professor Donal O’Shea have advocated for additional resources for bariatric surgery.
Dr Orsmond says she has seen patients in her clinics who initially lost weight after surgery, but weren’t able to maintain it as they didn’t change their diet or lifestyle.
She said it’s often ‘misleading’ to tell people surgery can resolve their problems, although stressed the procedure can be an option for some people.
She said: “At the end of the day we’re not going to solve the obesity crisis in Ireland or anywhere in the world unless we start with prevention, education and solid information.
“I have basically four clinics in Ireland, and I have been operating for the last 20 years… I get results, and I get results because of the word of mouth.
“It’s based on the fact that these people get individual support, and they need [to work with] a professional expert every week. This is what we should be able to offer nationwide.”