This might be a bad time to bring this up, but we have put on a few extra pounds during the pandemic. Not everybody, of course, but data from the annual report from the Trust for America’s Health show that weight gain was common across the country.
The trust cited a survey conducted by the Harris Poll last February that “found that 42% of adults in the United States reported undesired weight gain since the start of the pandemic. The average reported weight gain was 29 pounds.”
We had a weight problem in this country before the pandemic, and more on that later, but when the virus hit, our lifestyles changed. Gyms, rec centers and schools closed. Team sports activities were canceled.
More people worked from home, where the couch and snacks were readily available. People stopped going out to events, and that contributed to increased sedentary behavior.
The pandemic put additional stress, especially on low-income Americans, on the ability to eat healthy.
“Food insecurity reached unprecedented levels due to COVID-19,” the trust reported. “At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment surged, household food insecurity tripled, [and] food banks across the country reported large spikes in demand.”
Unfortunately, these unwanted pounds added on to our already bulging waistlines.
“In 2020, adult obesity rates topped 35% in 16 states, up from 12 states in 2019.” Yes, West Virginia is among those states, and we’re near the top (or maybe that is the bottom) of the list.
According to the trust, 39.1% of West Virginians are obese, ranking us second behind Mississippi, with an obesity rate of 39.7%. Coloradans are the healthiest, but, even there, 1 in 4 adults is overweight.
Doctor warnings about weight gain are real. The trust reports that obesity increases the risk of a range of diseases for adults — diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, liver and kidney disease, pregnancy complications, depression — and, notably, complications and serious illness from COVID-19.
The trust cited a study from the Journal of the American Heart Association that “estimated that 30% of the adult COVID-19 hospitalizations through November 2020 were attributable to obesity, and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart failure were together attributable for 64% of hospitalizations.”
In other words, people with weight-related issues are more susceptible to serious illness from the virus.
This is not a commentary about “fat-shaming.” I was blessed with good genes, but, even so, I have been trying, without success, to lose 10 pounds for as long as I can remember. My exercise is sporadic, and it is the first thing that goes when I get busy or tired. My eating habits range from pretty good to awful.
I know many of us are in the same boat, and that boat is getting heavier all the time.