Pandemic Pounds: Research Shows People Gained Weight Under Lockdowns

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For some people, the pandemic has packed on the pounds.

“I weigh a lot now. Off my diet now,” says Patrick Robinson of Monroeville.

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“I was staying at home more,” says a woman in Market Square. “I hope to shed those extra pounds.”

If you’re a little thicker around the middle compared to a year ago, you’re not alone. Patients are coming in to see the dietician for similar reasons.

“They’ve been very stressed out, and they can’t see family and friends, and they end up binging on food,” says Kelsey Hutter, a registered dietitian at the AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health.

Between February and June of last year, researchers collected information from a group of 268 people. The study participants volunteered their weight measurements from their Fitbits and electronic scales via Bluetooth.

Those under shelter in place orders gained a 1/2 pound every ten days — an average of 1 1/2 pounds a month. This happened across geography and other health conditions.

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People staying at home report more snacking and overeating.

“The food is accessible, and the foods that they tend to binge on are comfort foods,” says Hutter. “For some people it’s chocolate, or it’s ice cream. Many of my patients say, ‘yeah, if I have it in the house, I’m going to binge on that.’”

Even after restrictions are lifted, the weight gain may continue.

“There’s a lot of complications with obesity: stroke, heart attack, cancers,” Hutter says. “There’s going to be more disability.”

Many people will still work from home, take fewer steps and have all that food right in front of them.

“Try to have more structure in your day, like you would at work. So I’m gonna have lunch at 12, then I’m going to have dinner at 5 p.m.,” she recommends. “Don’t bring the foods in that you’re going to binge on. You want to do something that has some sort of incentive to do the activity. My reward was to be able to watch a YouTube or TikTok while riding my bike in the house.”

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If the stress is prolonged, or the binging becomes a pattern, she suggests seeing a dietician or therapist to work through those issues.