Did We Really Gain Weight During the Pandemic?

Is weight gain during the pandemic a real thing?

Do you find yourself desperately trying to squeeze into your favorite skinny jeans? Do you want to wear that two-piece swimsuit you always wore at the beach? But now that thing is uncomfortably tight. Yes, people are floored by how much had changed when the pandemic came into the picture.

Folks are cracking jokes about piling a few extra pounds while staying cooped up at home. While weight gain is a reality for many, is it true that it made a huge chunk of the population chubbier? If so, how can we lose weight with COVID-19 still ravaging our lives? We decided to dig a little deeper and check the latest statistics on weight gain. Here, we will answer all your queries.

Are People Getting Chubbier During the Pandemic?

Just as “Freshman 15” became a synonym for the extra weight gained during a student’s first year at college, “Quarantine 19” became the go-to word for referring to the extra pounds piled during the pandemic.

Roughly 2 in 5 Americans experienced pandemic weight gain. Those who got chubbier had an average weight gain of about 14.5 pounds. Since the pandemic rolled in, around 37% of all people in the U.S. stated they put on some extra weight. (1)

This reported weight gain is exactly 6 points over the global average, which was recorded to be at 31%. Meanwhile, 45% of the global population is trying to lose weight. Of those that actively work on achieving proper weight loss, 31% (one-third) say they want to lose the weight they gained during the pandemic. (2)

How Did We Let Weight Gain Get This Far?

Obesity is already a major public health concern in the United States. The obesity prevalence rate reached a staggering 42.4% in 2017 and 2018. It’s such a predominant problem that it is causing a whopping $147 billion in annual medical costs. (3)

In fact, the costs for individuals with obesity were over $1,400 higher than the costs in those with normal or healthy body weight. The pandemic only added more fuel to the fire. Obesity is a serious risk factor for severe coronavirus and complications. (4)

In other words, having obesity increases your likelihood of severe ailment from COVID-19. Overweight individuals may also be at risk. Experts suggest that having obesity can triple the odds of hospitalization due to the pandemic. (5)

Since obesity impairs immune function and lung capacity, it can interfere with normal ventilation. Recent reports estimate that 30.2% of hospitalizations back in 2020 were associated with obesity. The question is, why has a person gained so much weight? Take a look at the typical reasons for the piling pandemic weight in both women and men.

1. Snacking While Working

When the country went into lockdown in 2020, most people who could shift their working schedule from the office to an at-home arrangement. For a huge chunk of office workers who scrambled for space, the kitchen table offered a practical solution.

If you too spent your time sitting next to the pantry or fridge, odds are you always had comfort foods at your disposal. Researchers are talking that distracted eating or not paying attention to what you eat meant that people were eating more. (6)

If you regularly snack on huge amounts of your favorite goodies, then you can exceed your body’s energy requirement for a day, which can have a profound impact on your body mass index. That’s why watching the food intake and controlling distracted, or emotional eating can really come in handy. With healthy eating, you can keep unnecessary snacking at bay.

2. Throwing the Workout Habits Down the Drain

A great deal of changes happened at the start of the pandemic. The drop-in of healthy habits was just the tip of the iceberg. Working from home meant that people would focus on a more sedentary lifestyle.

It proved difficult to keep stable mental health, let alone maintain a regular exercise habit. Physical activity moved to the bottom of the priority list. People are now sitting more than doing any physical activity.

The average American adult spends more than 6 hours a day sitting – that’s 4 hours more than what was recorded before the onset of the virus. Those who work on the computer can spend 8 hours a day in front of a screen.

The lack of physical activity is causing aches and pains. Without enough exercise, people find themselves having discomfort and back pain. The drop-in exercise level is attributed to a few extra pounds. So, it is critical to get more exercise during the week and reduce the amount of fat.

3. Underestimating the Calorie Intake

Any breakfast, lunch, or dinner can have a set number of calories. Eating more calories with your diet and not exercising enough during the week can increase blood pressure. In fact, if a person were to gain weight to a point where they are obese or overweight, they can develop problems with hypertension. (7)

That’s why factors such as these should be taken into account. In a sense that you should be cooking a healthier diet that more people can enjoy. Watching the total caloric intake in the diet can help. So, make the necessary diet changes and incorporate a lifestyle that can benefit the body and help you lose a couple of pounds.

4. Stress Levels Going Through the Roof

We are all in the same boat, and if you are no stranger to worries and stress, then you know that stress over the pandemic is a serious problem. Weight control is difficult if you’re stressed! Around 4 in 10 American adults have started having symptoms of depressive or anxiety disorders. Compared to 1 in 10 adults back in 2019. (8)

Stress can cause a lot of weight changes. According to Harvard Medical School, stress and piling a few extra pounds go hand in hand. There is also a difference in stress-coping behavior in different genders. For example, men are more likely to use smoking or alcohol to cope with stress. While women often rely on food to curb stress. That’s why stress-related eating is more prevalent in women. (9)

So, how does stress make you gain weight? Cortisol (the primary stress hormone) stimulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism. That’s why it ends up creating a surge of energy in the body. Although this is our body’s natural built-in “alarm system,” it can increase your appetite.

With increased cortisol, food cravings can become a real problem. Especially food that’s super salty or sweet. So, you may feel like you can eat all the fast food you can get. When you pair anxiety with stress, you can see why your lifestyle habits can take a downward spiral. You pay less attention to what you are eating and the effect the food has on your overall health.

Do People Lose Weight During the Pandemic?

In the past year, many patients have been talking about unintended weight loss. Over 6 in 10 American adults, or 61% of those evaluated in a pandemic survey, reported having unwanted weight changes. About 18% reported an average weight loss of 26 pounds. 20% of men reported an undesired weight loss of 25 pounds. For 17% of women, it was 27 pounds. (10)

Given the constant stress and lack of rest, patients’ eating habits can drastically change. If patients were to lose their job, the food shortage could make it harder to keep the nutritional intake. So, some people end up changing their daily routine and the food they eat to match their current budget. Sometimes using only comfort food to regulate their appetite and emotions.

How to Lose Pandemic Weight?

The COVID 19 pandemic has flipped our lives upside down. It has had a drastic impact on our well-being. It brought forth numerous lifestyle changes that families had to implement. So, where do we go from here? Countless patients want to know how to lose the pandemic weight they’ve gained.

If you end up piling extra pounds, then it is time to use some practical methods to turn the tide. Harvard Medical School listed a couple of noteworthy tactics that can help. Here are some of them. (11)

1. Munch on More Veggies 

For a healthier lifestyle, vegetables and fruits are a must-have. Veggies packed with phytonutrients are a great way to fight ailments. They give the immune system that much-needed boost and keep the body on the right track.

2. Mind the Snacking

To be able to achieve healthy weight loss, you need to be mindful of the mealtimes and snacks you get. Overindulging on either of these things can make you pile a few extra pounds.

3. Avoid Sitting Too Much

Even if you work on your computer all day long, you can still find the time to get up and move around. That way, you can restore healthy circulation and avoid leg cramps. This will be the key to breaking the sedentary lifestyle.

4. Don’t Fill Your Pantry With Processed Goodies

One of the most common mistakes people make is stocking on as many processed meals as they can get. Processed food is a no-go when trying to retain a healthy lifestyle or body shape. Junk food won’t provide you with the nutrition you need.

5. Find the Right Stress Reduction Tactic

You can manage stress in more ways than one. You can try yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, or a range of deep breathing strategies. If you need a more tailored treatment, contact a specialist. Your doctor can give you viable options to mitigate the stress.

6. Restore Your Exercise Plan

It may seem difficult to try and work on your activity levels, but this is a time and energy well-spent. The goal is to be physically active on a regular basis, regardless of the type of work you do. Not only can it lower the risk of certain ailments, like obesity and diabetes, but it can also help you age well.

How to Lose the Extra Pounds on a Budget?

With the COVID 19 pandemic bringing major damage to your budget and waistline, it’s important to have a proper strategy in play. We rounded up some tactics that can help with weight gain and offer the lost weight results you’ve been looking for. (12)

  • Go meatless once a week. Buying fresh meat is a sure way to blow your budget. Although meat, like chicken breasts, can help you lose weight, you can opt for healthy substitutes like mushrooms and beans. The goal is not to have your overall health plummet. So, these meat substitutes may come in handy.
  • Purchase health food in bulk. Managing weight gain comes down to making long-term budget savings. Bulk shopping is a great way to fill the fridge while reducing food costs. Some items come at a heavy discount. So, use this to your advantage.
  • Buy veggies and fruits specifically in season. The most affordable way to curb weight gain is to buy goods in seasons. Load up on these products at a low price point and make your own salad at home, instead of blowing $10 at a salad bar.
  • Skip the expensive pre-portioned meals to lose the gained weight. Reducing the gained weight during the pandemic is best done when you scoop out your own portions of whatever you want to munch on. Whether that is a trail mix or almonds. When you get pre-portioned products, you pay more for the packaging.
  • Rethink your commute. If you want to reduce weight during the pandemic, then exercise should be a priority. Women and men can highly benefit from active exercise habits. Now, when you think about saving on costs while reducing the gained weight, you might want to change your commute. If you are going somewhere close by, save on gas by riding a bike or walking to your destination. That way, you can obtain the lost weight you’ve wanted, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to see how people have gained weight ever since the pandemic became a part of our daily lives. This virus disrupted our routines, made us more stressed, and limited our opportunity to be physically active. This led to profound weight gain for many people with poorer health outcomes, not just in the United States but around the world as well.

Losing weight can be a hefty ordeal, especially when you don’t know how to manage your unhealthy habits. To reduce the weight you’ve gained, it’s crucial to focus on your overall health and the products you consume on a regular basis. After all, when you gain weight, you get closer to being overweight or obese, which can put you at risk of experiencing complications from the virus.

If you are willing to turn over a new leaf, then dropping the fast food and controlling the weight during the pandemic can go a long way. With the options listed here, you can always stay on the right path. Even if you are on a tight budget.

Buying fresh produce in season, healthy food in bulk, and skipping the pre-portioned meals are one of the many ways you can use to save some cash. Now that you have the right strategies at hand, you can make better choices. Did you find this guide useful? Have you tried implementing any of these options to lose weight? We would love to know what you think. Share your experience in the comment section below!


  1. https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/two-five-americans-gained-weight-during-pandemic
  2. https://www.ipsos.com/en/covid-diet-and-health
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8073853/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/obesity-and-covid-19.html
  6. https://www.muhealth.org/our-stories/pandemic-weight-gain-its-thing
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19218718/
  8. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
  9. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
  10. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2021/03/march-weight-change
  11. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/did-we-really-gain-weight-during-the-pandemic-202110052606
  12. https://www.businessinsider.com/9-cheap-ways-to-lose-weight-2013-11
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