How Did the Pandemic Influence Obesity in America?

obesity in america

Did you gain weight during the pandemic? If so, you’re not alone. Obesity in America has been on the rise, having doubled since the 70s. Now, obesity statistics show that 75% of Americans are overweight or obese.

Unfortunately, pandemic conditions have accelerated the obesity epidemic.

One of the keys to turning this around lies in identifying how the pandemic influenced weight gain. By understanding the contributing factors, we can take steps to combat them and make healthy living a priority.

Whether you are battling severe obesity, or just trying to budge a few unwanted pandemic pounds, there are actionable steps you can take. Keep reading to find out more about obesity and covid, as well as what you can do to get back on track weight-wise.

The COVID-19 Weight Gain Phenomena

We’ve all heard the jokes about covid weight gain doing the rounds, and many of us have been complaining of numbers creeping up on the scale and tightening waistbands.

Stats show that these jokes are based on fact. According to reports, 42% of adults gained more weight than intended at the start of the pandemic. Ironically, the term “covid-15” is actually spot on, as the average amount gained turns out to be 15 pounds.

Unfortunately, this level of weight gain can have some serious health repercussions. People who gain more than 11 pounds are at increased risk of heart disease and Type II diabetes.

Besides this, people who have experienced weight gain from the pandemic are also more susceptible to the virus. If you are battling obesity, this more than triples the risk of being hospitalized. The risk of death also rises with increases in body mass index.

Pandemic Conditions Also Caused a Striking Increase in Childhood Obesity

While adults are usually the first ones to notice weight gain, they haven’t been the only ones affected. Obesity in American extends to children as well, and the pandemic hasn’t helped the childhood obesity problem.

According to study results, childhood obesity rates jumped from 13% to 15% during the early months of the pandemic.

Researchers isolated a few main factors for this sharp rise. One was a lack of exercise, as cooped up at home children had less opportunity for movement and more screen time. They also pinpointed increased access to unhealthy snacks as another factor, and less consistent meals and portion sizes.

Why America Gained Weight During the Pandemic

Statistics have now confirmed that increased obesity and covid conditions seem to be intertwined. But how can we untangle this and make sure that our covid pounds don’t become permanent?

Below we get into some of the factors why COVID-19 accelerated obesity in America and made many of us pack on the pounds.

Less Movement

One of the big contributing factors that exacerbated the obesity epidemic during COVID-19 was less exercise and less movement. Most of us were confined indoors. Gyms were shut and jogs in the parks became a thing of the past.

Of course, there are ways to exercise from home. These include things like doing yoga, pilates, weight training, and virtual workout classes.

Unfortunately, experiencing a disruption in one’s exercise routine can easily send you down a sedentary spiral of skipped workouts. While many people had good intentions of starting at-home exercise routines, there were various factors that could get in the way.

Families had to deal with drastically altered routines and schedules. With schools closed, many working parents simply didn’t have time to work out as they juggled homeschooling and work responsibilities.

Besides disrupting people’s exercise routines, the pandemic decreased the amount of general movement most people did in a day. For instance, study results show that being stuck at home triggered a 28% increase in daily sitting time on average.

Instead of walking to the car, bus, or subway, moving around at work, and running errands, most people had to remain entirely indoors at home for weeks on end.

Emotional Eating and Stress

Another contributing factor around obesity in American and the pandemic was stress.

Stress is becoming a well-known contributing factor to weight gain, and some eye-opening studies have come out revealing just what a big role it can play. In one study researchers found that women who reported one or more stressors during a 24 hour period burnt 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women did.

Over one year, this could result in a weight gain of 11 pounds.

During the early months of the pandemic, most people were under a lot of emotional and mental stress. Now, more than 18 months in, people are still laboring under heightened stress levels.

Although survey results show that while the majority of people (70%) reported feeling positive about the future, almost one third of adults say they are still stressed about the pandemic, to the point where they struggle to make decisions around what to wear or eat.

Struggling with deciding what to eat can often lead to making unhealthy food choices.

Increased Snacking and Emotional Eating

Besides hindering our body’s ability to burn fat, pandemic-related stress can also be a trigger for emotional eating. Besides increasing food intake, emotional eating also usually involves unhealthy food choices. One of the reasons for this is that heightened cortisol levels typically makes us crave junk foods.

Survey results reveal that consumers report snacking being a “lifeline” during the pandemic, and 88% of adults say they are snacking more or the same compared to prior to COVID-19.

What’s more, snacking has shifted to being more of a solo activity, comfort is the main driver, and 53% of consumers report buying nostalgic childhood brands.

While healthy snacking isn’t usually correlated with weight gain, emotional eating and intake of unhealthy, processed snacks can quickly trigger a rise in weight.

Disrupted Routines

Another factor that we’ve touched on above but which deserves more attention is disrupted routines. Not only were people’s exercise routines disrupted, but so were their eating and sleeping routines.

As mentioned above, snacking skyrocketed, often replacing full, more nutritious meals and healthier eating choices. Besides this, a lot of people’s sleeping patterns were disrupted.

For some people, this resulted from self-inflicted activities, such as staying up watching television. For other people stress caused insomnia and restless nights.

Without set schedules many people also ended up working into the night, sleeping late, falling into an unhealthy “night owl” pattern.

According to statistics, 25% of Americans are getting less sleep during the pandemic. Unfortunately, lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to weight gain.

This is because when you are sleep deprived you have more ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and less leptin (the satiety hormone). This can cause increased calorie intake. Reduced energy levels from not getting enough sleep can also impact calorie burning.

Research shows that sleep deprivation can cause a 20% increase in calorie intake and affect calorie expenditure.

Economic Instability

Economic uncertainty was another pandemic-related factor that fueled America’s obesity problem. One of the primary effects of this was increased stress. We already outlined how this can affect weight gain.

However, economic uncertainty also had negative impacts on many people’s food choices. Those who were worried about their income or job security probably might have had to conserve on their food spending.

Unfortunately, healthy food options often cost a little more than cheap, processed items, which may have led a lot of people to eat more refined carbohydrates and less healthy protein and produce.

Tips for Shaking Pandemic Pounds

As you can see, the disruption and stress of the pandemic have fueled obesity in America. The good news is that if you’ve gained unwanted weight or are struggling with an obesity problem, there are positive steps you can take.

Weight gain can feel like an overwhelming challenge to tackle, but the trick is to start small and keep at it. Here are some of the most important measures you can take to start taking back control of your weight.

Go Heavy Fresh on Produce and Focus On Healthy Protein

One of the best strategies for healthy living and weight control is to focus on eating a diet high in fresh produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables typically have low calories counts, as well as high amounts of fiber. This helps to keep one full without loading up on excess calories.

Filling your meals with fresh produce can also help you from feeling portion deprived. Even if you pile your plate, as long as a large portion of the food is fruits or vegetables, there’s very little chance of gaining weight from this.

Fruits and vegetables are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients. Eating a diet that is high in nutrients can help ease cravings and even assist with some of the adverse effects of excess weight, such as inflammation.

Another food group that can help you feel full without causing weight gain is healthy protein sources. Try to focus on incorporating lean, healthy proteins into your diet to fuel your body and avoid hunger pangs.

Plan Your Meals

Another important tip for managing weight and meeting your food goals is to plan your meals. All too often our meals are dictated by hunger and time pressure.

If you leave meals to the last minute, there’s a higher chance that you’ll simply eat whatever is quickest and easiest, which often ends up being convenience foods or processed items. If you wait to prepare meals until you’re hungry, this can also cause you to make unhealthy choices that sound good in the moment.

To avoid this, try to plan your meals out at least the day before. You can also make some of them ahead of time, or prep certain elements so that when hunger hits throwing together a healthy meal will only take a few minutes.

Make Shopping Lists and Stick To Them

Besides planning your meals you should also get into the habit of planning your shopping lists. Browsing the aisles for what looks good is a recipe for disaster. Chances are, you’ll end up picking out unhealthy options, and won’t have the right ingredients for full meals.

Instead, decide roughly what you want to eat over the course of the week and then shop accordingly. Once you have made your grocery list, try to stick to it as best you can.

If you pass an unhealthy snack in the grocery store, you’re only going to be tempted by it once. If you take it home with you, it will be there to tempt you round the clock.

Keep a Food Diary or Use a Food Tracker

A great way to take control over what you eat is by using a food diary or food tracker. This can help you to avoid binge eating and give you actionable data on how you are consuming calories over any given day.

If you join UnCraveRx®, you will automatically get access to a food library and easy-to-use food tracker.

Move Your Body

You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again. Movement and exercise is key for losing weight and improving overall health.

A lot of people make the mistake of trying to train too hard, then getting discouraged and giving up.

If you haven’t been exercising, give your body some grace and start off with a gentle, achievable exercise program. Try to incorporate it in a way you enjoy and that can become a permanent part of your life.

Enroll in a Reputable, Sustainable Weightloss Program

If you’re just not seeing results on your own, then we would also recommend you join a weight loss program that promotes healthy living.

Make sure you avoid fad diets and extreme programs and find something that is well-grounded in science, such as UnCraveRx® which is a medically assisted weight loss program.

Through our resources and support, we can help you lose excess weight and keep it off for good, without extreme, ineffective (and potentially dangerous) fad dieting.

Fighting Obesity in America Together

Obesity in American has been on the rise for decades, and pandemic conditions made it even harder for people to maintain a healthy weight. Are you battling extra pounds gained in lockdown?

If you are, reading up on weight loss tips might not be enough. Weight gain can be a complicated issue, and you might be struggling against numerous factors, including stress, emotional eating, and more.

If you feel like you need a reliable support program for your weight loss journey, we are here to help.

UnCraveRx® is committed to helping people fight the obesity epidemic and establishing healthy living habits that will last a lifetime.

Our team of medical experts is here to guide and support you on your journey. You will also gain access to a wealth of on-demand resources, as well as a food tracker, nutritional coaching, and lifestyle behavioral support.

Find a UnCraveRx® provider and take the first step to a healthy life today.

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