If like many Americans you’ve gained the “Quarantine 15,” you are not alone. Perhaps predictably, weight gain has been a common side effect of the coronavirus lockdown, which has upended our daily routines and obliterated our usual health habits. This week, a WebMD poll confirmed that a staggering number of Americans have gained weight as a result of the pandemic, and revealed that nearly half of women have noticed the numbers on the scale creeping upward “due to COVID restrictions.”
While it’s unsurprising that our lockdown lifestyles might trigger weight gain, many have noted how distinctly those numbers fell along gender lines: 47 percent of women reported having gained weight, while just 22 percent of men reported the same. Among those polled, the vast majority of respondents (75 percent) reported gaining between one and nine pounds. Twenty-one percent said they had gained between 10 and 20 pounds, and four percent said they had gained over 21 pounds.
When asked what they believed to be the driving force behind their weight gain, nearly 60 percent of respondents pointed to stress eating and restricted activity levels as the culprits. A further 21 percent believed the change on the scale was due to an increased level of alcohol consumption during the lockdown—entirely possible, given that alcohol sales have surged since the beginning of the pandemic.
While comfort food, lack of exercise, and excessive alcohol consumption can all provide solace in the short term, it’s true that they make it all too easy to pack on the pounds. Add to those our disrupted sleep patterns and skyrocketing anxiety about the current state of things, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for excessive weight gain. For people that were overweight to begin with, these lifestyle changes can pose especially hazardous side effects. Obesity is considered a comorbidity of coronavirus, and people with a BMI over 40 are reportedly three times more likely to die from COVID-19.
As the pandemic continues with no clear end in sight, these startling numbers may mean it’s time for all of us to tighten our belts, so to speak, and establish healthier coping strategies. Now that we’ve weathered the initial stage of shock, we can look beyond the short term to build healthier habits: eating better, getting more physical activity, sleeping more, drinking less, and, importantly, being kind to ourselves about whatever weight we may have gained during this stressful time. And when you’re ready to shed those excess pounds, check out the 101 Ultimate Summer Weight Loss Tips for Summer 2020.