The weighty consequences of the pandemic

By David Marks

What if you stay indoors for an unprecedented amount of time, sleep much less than usual, have no way of exercising, and are exposed to non-stop, overwhelming stress?

More than 61 percent of Americans experienced unwanted weight gain due to the one-off COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a new report from the American Psychological Association, 40 percent of the 3,000 adults surveyed gained an average of 29 pounds in 2020. And 10 percent said they gained more than 50 pounds.

“I think almost everyone went into this pandemic with the idea that it would only last for a short time, so they weren’t careful about the habits they established and those habits led to undesirable consequences in terms of weight,” said Matthew Swan, MD, obesity medicine specialist, family doctor, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.

Even without a pandemic environment, negative emotions can lead to feelings of emptiness or emotional emptiness. It is believed that eating is a way to fill this void and create a false sense of temporary wholeness. This pattern is known as “emotional eating”.

It can cause feelings of guilt or shame and lead to a cycle of overeating and, of course, weight gain.

“The use of emotional eating for some kind of comfort has undoubtedly affected the majority of the population. Unfortunately, for those who have used food as a means of coping with stress, there are few other ways or ways to learn new habits for the time being, ”said Swan.

Also, when you don’t get enough sleep, you have hormonal imbalances. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you deny your body this rest, you will feel hungrier and more tired.

“We all spent a lot of time in our homes, which resulted in people eating a lot more than they normally would. For those who work from home, the office has never been this close to the kitchen, which is an almost constant temptation for many people. It’s almost like someone sat down and made a plan to put the population on weight together, ”Swan said.

Now is the perfect time to rethink our daily habits and return to a healthier lifestyle. Even if exercise isn’t a priority, the benefits are enormous. It relieves stress, strengthens the immune system, and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. In fact, any physical activity you can incorporate into your day – even a five-minute walk – will help keep your weight under control and lighten your mood.

When you start taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle, it is important to be kind to yourself. Remember, this is not an experience for you alone. And it wasn’t easy. The whole world is trying to cope with the past 18 months. Hence, it is important to remember that even small advances are progress.

“The place where exercise can really assert itself is in maintaining weight and mental wellbeing. Exercise maintains the muscle mass that is crucial for your resting metabolic rate, the calories that you only burn while living. It also has a positive effect on your neurotransmitters – it helps you feel calm and comfortable, ”said Swan.

AdventHealth offers a variety of community wellness courses to help improve your mind, body, and spirit. Learn more at

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