Pandemic Leads to Both Weight Gain and Eating Disorders

Experts Say Be Kind to Your Body
The stress of the pandemic led many people to develop weight issues. Photo Credit:  Diana Polekhina / Unsplash

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — More than 60% of adults reported weight problems during the pandemic, according to the American Psychological Association.

Experts have some tips on getting back into your groove this summer. COVID-19 disrupted everyone’s food and exercise routines, stranded many in front of a screen all day, and led to increased isolation.

Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health with UnitedHealthcare, said the stress led some to overeat, and others, especially teens, to develop an eating disorder.

“We see both ends of the spectrum,” O’Shea explained. “People who had excess snacking, but we also see that in others the same kind of stress caused them to not eat and to really put their health at risk.”

She advised it’s important to re-establish routines that include the basics: good nutrition, regular exercise and sufficient sleep.

She recommended using a fitness tracker and getting your steps in a little at a time throughout the day before working up to a goal of 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

Many companies offer wellness programs. UnitedHealthcare offers a free online motivational tool at There, people can sign a pledge to make health a priority this summer. It is part of an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the most pledges received for a health campaign in one month, ending on July 15.

Connie Sobczak, co-founder and executive director of the Berkeley-based nonprofit organization The Body Positive and author of a book called “Embody,” said it is important to be kind and gentle with our bodies and recognize they helped us survive the pandemic when so many people did not.

“Please don’t go on a diet, because it will backfire,” Sobczak suggested. “Slowly make changes to increase movement in our lives. Dance in your living room. I mean, just start moving your body and feeling good in your body. And then add in more nutritious foods.”

She urged people to recognize the amount of stress they’ve been under and cut themselves some slack, warning energy spent feeling negative about their body just added to the stress and leads to poor health outcomes.