Rapid weight gain during coronavirus pandemic raises health concerns

WESTON, Fla. – For many states, stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic spanned weeks on end, and at the same time, many Americans’ waistlines also expanded.

Health experts say those added pounds, in some cases 10 or more, could have long-term consequences.

“We don’t want people to be gaining an excessive amount of weight in a short period of time. It can have an effect on your blood sugar, it can have an effect on your cholesterol levels, and we know those are not good parameters for health,” said Candace O’Neill, a registered dietician with the Cleveland Clinic Weston.

The biggest culprits? So-called comfort foods, which include refined carbohydrates that contain a lot of salt, excess calories and fat but no fiber or nutrients to create a feeling of fullness.

“Since they have no fiber in them, they’re more likely to spike up your blood sugar which chronically, over time, could potentially lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes,” O’Neill said.

To get back on track, O’Neill said avoid shaming yourself. Instead, reflect on the habits that may have led to the weight gain.

“And then see if you still have that habit. Do you have a sweet tooth at night that came out of nowhere or are you grazing throughout the day? Are you drinking more alcohol? And then I would tackle that first because one of those unhealthy eating habits is what’s going to affect your health in the long haul the biggest,” she said.

Simple steps now that could make a big difference down the road.

“Because if you gain 10 pounds this year, come the holiday times if you gain another 10 pounds it can just be a recipe for bad health,” O’Neill said.

Another concern about sudden weight gain during the COVID-19 lockdown is how much of it came from increased alcohol consumption, which can lead to fatty liver disease and potentially, liver failure.

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