2020 had everyone sitting on their couches, binge-watching Netflix and eating take-out. The pandemic increased stress and anxiety levels and caused many people to lose sleep, adding to our health problems.
A new global study shows that people around the world gained weight through stress-eating and a more sedentary lifestyle due to stay-at-home orders. Obese individuals had the most trouble managing their weight, even though there were small improvements in many people’s diet due to cooking at home rather than eating out.
The Covid-19 vaccine is being provided to priority groups, offering hope that our lives may soon return to normal. Now is the time to reconsider actions and habits that overtook us in 2020 and take steps to make improvements. 2021 is the year to get back your health.
The study surveyed almost 8,000 adults worldwide, including people from 50 different countries and every U.S. state. The researchers, who were from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, created questions about how the stay-at-home orders affected stress, sleep, exercise, and diet.
The survey showed that most people were more sedentary during the pandemic, which the researchers attribute to the lack of a daily commute along with more time being spent indoors. Even when people did exercise, it was at a lower intensity level than before. People were also more apt to give in to their cravings for sugary snacks and sweetened beverages.
Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed admitted that they’d gained weight following the initial lockdown. Individuals who were obese were most likely to gain weight (33 percent compared with only 24.7 percent of people in the normal weight range), and those that gained weight were more likely to decrease physical activity.
Emily Flanagan, an author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, noted it wasn’t surprising that people engaged in less healthy habits during the pandemic. So many aspects of health are intertwined. Stress can lead to poor sleep, which leads to lack of exercise and the consumption of junk food, which in turn, leads to weight gain. But Dr. Flanagan hopes that the study findings can make people aware of the problem, leading to proactive steps toward improving health and wellness.
“Being aware of how our health behaviors change during these stay-at-home orders could help us combat that if another lockdown is enforced,” she said. “Being aware is really the number one thing here.”
While the study showed that more people are cooking homemade meals, which are typically healthier than those purchased at restaurants and fast food establishments, it also revealed that people were snacking more. Chips, cookies, ice cream, and carbonated beverages are not on the path to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The first step to improving your health and wellness in 2021 is ensuring that you keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your home so that the next time you’re craving something sweet, you can grab an orange or eat a few grapes. If you’re craving something savory, try veggies splashed with salad dressing, rather than chips and dip.
However, eating better will not by itself improve your weight and your overall health. It’s essential that you get out and get moving. Regular workouts are a catalyst to weight loss, muscle gain, and improved health and wellness. Gym memberships offer individuals the ability to utilize many types of exercise equipment and provide access to resources, training, and encouragement.
The coronavirus pandemic may have been a setback in your life, causing stress-eating and weight gain, but your life is in your hands. 2021 can be your year to not only lose any weight gained last year, but also to become healthier than ever before.