For some people body image, self-esteem and eating habits can be a struggle all year round – and even more of a strain on the lead up to summer holidays and planning a #staycation. 

A new YouGov survey conducted around the world has reported that 46% of Brits have gained weight during lockdown. More than half of people globally indicated they wanted to lose weight, with 51% reporting that they are trying to lose weight. 

During the pandemic we all faced greater concerns – many people have coped with increased anxiety or depression and weight gain (or loss) can be a manifestation of these extremely stressful situations. Our lives have been turned upside down since March 2020, with significant changes to the way we live, work and socialise, driving stress levels up. Of course, we all respond to stress differently. Evidence tells us that around 40% of us tend to eat more and around 40% eat less when stressed (~20% eat the same). We are still learning about the impact of COVID-19 on not only our physical health but lifestyles. 

I think most of us have felt our clothes getting a little tighter over the past few months. For those who weigh themselves regularly you may have seen just how much weight you’ve gained – and you’re most likely feeling pretty guilty about it. With restrictions easing come the opportunity to meet up with friends and family. Some people may feel ashamed or embarrassed about the weight they’ve gained. Yes, cue more stress and negative thoughts.

It’s okay to have gained weight.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack. We have all been through a difficult and dark time. As we resume our normal activities and we get vaccinated we will have the ability to be more intentional about weight loss. Other than weight, we should focus on more positive factors that we have gained during the pandemic – we can see it is not all bad. For me I’ve gained an increased appreciation of the outdoors, walking more and spending time with friends and family outside. What is important is that we recognise that we need to find the right time to respond – it’s likely that the easing of restrictions will be stressful for some people. For them embarking on weight loss would not be the best time. 

For those who are ready, start with one easy goal – something to feel better! This could be going for a daily walk or getting in bed earlier for more sleep. Try to take advantage of the summer weather and plan regular walks with neighbours, friends or family. It is important to not to go full throttle though, just keep things achievable and re-evaluate your goals regularly. 

Being a Registered Nutritionist I’m a big fan of evidence-based material, so I thought I’d share with you below some great tips from Cancer Research UK- 10 top tips for a healthy weight

Despite lockdown restrictions easing, some days might still be a struggle. It’s okay, this is normal. Try your best to keep your mind focussed on the coming days and try not to feel guilty about days that haven’t gone to plan. We all have days like this. 

We are all in this together, you are not alone. 

Dr Suzanne Zaremba

Lecturer in Nutrition at the University of Dundee & fellow of the SCPN