MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, more than half of U.S. adults report experiencing an undesired weight change over the past 12 months.
The American Psychological Association (APA) estimates 61% of adults have experienced unintentional weight loss or weight gain over the last year, according to survey responses.
When you combine staying home and a major mental disturbance like a global pandemic, the outcome is often obesity, according to Dr. Zaher Nuwayhid, a bariatric specialist in Conway, South Carolina.
“Most of my patients have either been not losing weight or have been gaining weight, and every time I speak with them, they say, ‘Doctor listen, I’ve been home, and all I do is eat,’” Nuwayhid said.
According to the APA, 42% reported gaining more weight than intended while 18% said they lost more weight than they wanted. The average amount of weight gained was 29 pounds, while the average amount lost was 26 pounds.
Besides eating more, medical experts say weight can be affected by a change in sleep and increased alcohol consumption.
“I always tell my patients you can turn the point around. I know you had a bad month, you stayed home, you quarantined, you gained some weight, but that’s fine, it’s not the end of the world; you can always lose it,” Nuwayhid said.
Doctors say the pandemic has also taken a toll on mental health. Stress can have a direct impact on undesired weight loss, while financial problems can contribute to weight gain as well.
“With the pandemic, you lose your job, so your income also becomes on the low side, so you tend to buy cheap stuff like high-calorie goods, snacks, chips, and this is also bad,” Nuwayhid said.
Medical experts report obesity as a risk factor for COVID-19, but acknowledge staying home is increasing the obesity population.
A recent report released by The World Obesity Federation links obesity with a series of health complications related to COVID-19.
It found that increased bodyweight “is the second greatest predictor of hospitalization and a high risk of death for people suffering from COVID-19.” Only age ranks as a higher risk factor.