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Americans May Have Gained Around Two Pounds a Month During the Pandemic

Our bodies changed during quarantine. There’s nothing wrong with that. It was a wild time, and we all had to cope with the extra stress, anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty in whatever ways worked best for us. Plus, it’s not like we were able to hit the gym or anything, so anyone without access to a Peloton or year-round jogging weather was bound to see a few extra pounds over the course of the year on lockdown. And, of course, being stuck inside just cut down on daily activities like walking to work, taking the stairs to class or running to catch your train. Our bodies were bound to change a little. But exactly how much change are we talking about? That’s what experts are trying to find out.

It’s harder than you might think. People are notoriously bad at self-reporting their own weight gain, since we’re using imprecise tools (our own memories) to keep track of things. But Bluetooth-connected smart scales may hold the key to getting an accurate assessment of what happened, according to a study made up of volunteers who used the scales. And what that data shows is that we’ve gained about half a pound every 10 days. Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, senior author of the research letter which was published on Monday in the peer-reviewed JAMA Network Open put it this way: nearly two pounds a month.

“We know that weight gain is a public health problem in the U.S. already, so anything making it worse is definitely concerning, and shelter-in-place orders are so ubiquitous that the sheer number of people affected by this makes it extremely relevant,” Dr. Marcus, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at UCLA told the New York Times.

The data isn’t rock solid. A disproportionate number of the volunteers involved were actually losing weight pre-pandemic, meaning the results may actually be underestimating how many pounds we’ve put on. But scientists are hoping to get a handle on more exact numbers because COVID-19 affects us differently depending on how much we weigh. Body mass index says that some 42 percent of Americans over 20 can be categorized as obese, putting the United States towards the top of countries with the highest rates of obesity.

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As the vaccine continues to roll out, more and more people will start going back outside, get that gym membership started back up and maybe a few of us will start seeing if we can start squeezing back into our old jeans. That’s good for anyone feeling so inspired but in the meantime, it’s important that we give ourselves a lot of grace. It’s been a tough year.

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