Habits Created Pandemic Weight Gain…and Can End It

During the pandemic, 42 percent of American adults said they experienced undesired weight gain, according to an American Psychological Association (APA) Stress in America survey carried out in February 2021. The average amount gained was 29 pounds.

Many can relate that weight gain is one of the countless ways the pandemic took its toll. Take Sue, a Morris County wife and mother for example.

The pandemic caused Sue to stay home from her job. A situation that started as temporary turned into a year-long stint of working from home.

She shifted away from her previous routine of before-work exercise sessions, lunch-time walks with co-workers and deep breathing sessions to unwind after work. Instead, she found herself home all day and night with her husband, who had also been forced to work digitally from home.

Sue’s pandemic life became filled with Zoom calls and learning new digital ways to carry out her job. Somehow, her workload kept increasing and communications continuously crept into her personal time.

As her work increased, so did the numbers on the scale. Over the course of the pandemic, she had gained 20 pounds. She told her friends, “I haven’t gained this much weight this quickly since the Freshman 15 in college!”

Sue missed social time with her coworkers and became tired of her husband. Every time she turned around, there he was. As she made lunches for the two of them, she found herself consuming more of the red meat, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods that had been his favorites since long before the pandemic.

She ate less of the nutritious meals she had previously packed as work lunches. She found it easier to make them both the same thing, and the foods he liked felt comforting as she dealt with endless stress and uncertainty about the world.

She asked her husband to take walks with her, but quickly stopped asking as he responded with a grunt and mid-day couch nap. Sue also found it easy to skip her pre-work exercise sessions and post-work breathing sessions, as the hours blended together at home.

As her midsection filled out more and more, she looked at her husband’s hard-earned beer belly and thought to herself, “I’m starting to look like him. Help!” She knew she wasn’t alone, as her whole group of friends would sit around the coffee shop table weekly and commiserate about their weight gain as they drank sugary lattes and high-fat pastries, adding fuel to the already raging fire.

Sue’s story illustrates a fantastic example of the myriad causes behind pandemic weight gain. She was sitting more than normal, exercising less, feeling isolated, facing extra stress and eating an unhealthy diet. She’s part of the many people whose routines have changed from the effects of the pandemic.

But time passes, and life changes. After a time of fear and uncertainty, hope is restored. People are returning to the office, freedoms are coming back, and life is beginning to get back to a new normal. Just as the pandemic turned everyone’s life around, it’s possible for people to take charge and turn their lives around in a healthier direction.

To stop the weight gain and start seeing the scale dial head in a downward direction, focus on lifestyle changes and a healthier routine. This could start with small steps like going for walks outside, limiting unhealthy foods and adding more nutritious ones to a diet, and practicing de-stressing activities like deep breathing and meditation.

Gradually take more healthy steps to undo the pandemic’s unhealthy routine and create healthier habits going forward.