Mick Nardelli knew something had to be done. After weeks of pandemic apathy, wherein incentivized sedentary lifestyles at the onset of Covid introduced the “Quarantine 15,” Nardelli was nearing 300 pounds and had an uncertain future.
At 5’9″ and 295 pounds in his mid-40s, the D.C. suburban father of a 3-year-old watched with a body mass index of nearly 44, (14 points above the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for “obesity” and therefore qualified as medically “severe”) while the Wuhan virus wreaked havoc on patients who carried excessive weight.
“Not being around was staring me in the face,” Nardelli told The Federalist. “I hadn’t had that realization until Covid.”
Nardelli said he came across a study published in August 2020 that pushed him to move. Researchers had examined 75 studies to conduct a systemic meta-analysis that probed the risks to obese individuals by the new coronavirus. Obese people, they found, were at least 113 percent more likely to be hospitalized, at least 73 percent more likely to be admitted to intensive care, and nearly 50 percent more likely to die.
“That was a scary enough statistic for me to take action,” Nardelli said, signing up for a local weight loss program complete with regular in-person coaching.
“The first time I started exercising I just walked,” said Nardelli. He met with his nutrition trainers at Cōpare, the wellness group that facilitated his diet training weekly.
Prepping for an eventual Covid infection, which the so-called vaccines can’t prevent, Nardelli’s work paid off when the vaccinated 46-year-old lobbyist contracted the virus over the recent holidays after having lost 100 pounds.
“Mild is not a word I would use,” said Nardelli, who got Covid as the less deadly omicron variant became the dominant strain. “Mild to what it was previously, but there were times when I felt a consistent breathing attack.”
Nardelli, now 183 pounds with a body mass index of 27 and no longer considered obese, credits his weight loss with saving him from severe Covid complications, or worse, death.
“I am convinced without any medical background,” Nardelli told The Federalist, “had I not lost the weight, I would have been in much much, much worse shape.” The data backs this up.
After losing the weight, Nardelli was able to toss out the five medications he was taking for high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. A study from the CDC out earlier this month revealed that more than 75 percent of the vaccinated individuals who succumbed to the virus’s worst outcome suffered from four comorbidities. In other words, the more comorbidities, the less the vaccine can do to save you. Nardelli reclaimed a high level of baseline health and defeated the virus instead.
Safe not only from Covid, which merely catalyzed his journey, Nardelli is now at lower risk from heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer than he was before, all of which motivated him to keep moving. More immediately, his quality of life has risen dramatically.
“I can do so many more things,” he said, with excitement and relief audible in his voice. “I can jump on the ground and play with my daughter. Now she walks with me.” The two also do Taekwondo together.
In light of an endemic virus that disproportionately targets the clinically obese, Nardelli’s story should be more common, but it’s not. As a whole, the United States — which went into the pandemic with a minority of its population at a metabolically healthy weight — continued to pack on the pounds, an average of 29 among the more than 42 percent who gained weight according to one estimate from the American Psychological Association last year.
Vanessa Spiller, a certified nutritionist and coach with Cōpare, told The Federalist she’s seen Covid bring baseline health to the forefront for people coming to their locations. She said she remains concerned, however, about cultural currents normalizing the unhealthy lifestyles that Americans seemed to become even more complacent with under lockdown.
Earlier this month, Self Magazine, a women’s beauty publication, debuted a glossy cover of a visibly obese model at the center of its series on the “Future of Fitness.”
“This is healthy!” the magazine proclaimed.
“Healthy can look many different ways, but I don’t think we’re doing ourselves any favors promoting [obesity],” Spiller said, emphasizing that it was important for people to listen to qualified experts on nutrition and fitness as opposed to cultural idols. “It’s not body shaming. … It’s educating yourself about being healthy.”
Spiller said health and wellness ought to take more priority in peoples’ lives. “If it’s number eight on the priority list, pick it up a couple notches.”
“Time is finite, but it’s go-time,” she said.
This article has been updated since publication.