Pandemic Weight Gain is Real

The so-called “Quarantine 15” is real, and for some, it may be closer to 30 – as in pounds gained during one year of the pandemic. During the recent pandemic weight gain was an issue for many.

Many Americans knew they’d put on weight with all the stress-baking and stay-at-home shift in routines. But two recent studies show pandemic weight gain has been significant — up to two pounds a month according to a March 2021 JAMA Network study, and more than 30 pounds over 12 months for some people, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found.

According to the APA survey, six in 10 adults experienced undesired weight changes during the pandemic. For 42% of respondents, that meant additional pounds — an average of 29. The remaining 18% experienced unintended weight loss.

Some people tend to stress-eat, or mindlessly eat, while stress causes others to lose their appetite.  We’ve all been through an extremely stressful year. Food insecurity and job losses may have led to unintended dietary changes as some ingredients, such as fresh produce, became less accessible or affordable. Gym closures and working from home may have contributed to overeating or mindless snacking. And that homemade-sourdough trend early in the pandemic probably didn’t help.

Men reported an average weight gain of 37 pounds and women an average of 22 additional pounds, which included 3,013 participants. Half of all parents and essential workers who responded said they’d put on weight during the pandemic — an average of 36 to 38 pounds. Excess weight and obesity can lead to health problems including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Having a higher body-mass index (BMI) and having more fat around the mid-section increases the risk for all kinds of chronic diseases.

The U.S. has been facing growing obesity rates for the past several decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity — defined as a BMI of 30 or higher — increased from 30.5% in 2000 to 42.4% in 2018. BMI is a measure of a person’s body fat, based on height and weight.

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, so a lot of people are struggling with weight and weight loss to begin with. There’s potential for added stress and added discouraging feelings of ‘I spent all this time and now I weigh more than I did before’ the pandemic. It could be very difficult for people to feel like they have control over the issue, especially when there’s still so many unknowns right now.

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