COVID-19 Lockdowns Impacting Weight, Weight Loss, and Carb Intake

We know we’re moving less and sleeping more during the pandemic. But what about the impact on managing our weight? We looked at the aggregate data from millions of Fitbit users from the end of March, when lockdown orders were widespread, especially in the US, through the end of June to see the impact of quarantine on our weight.

First, let’s start with the good news. COVID-19 and resulting shelter-in-place orders hit the world early in the year when many of us were focused on losing that holiday weight. And, even with the pandemic, Fitbit users still weigh less now than they did in January. But, in the US, Fitbit users didn’t lose as much weight as they normally do in the winter-to-spring timeframe. 

Weight loss and gain impacted genders very differently. Women largely gained weight this spring while men were more likely to lose, indicates new data from US Fitbit users.

On average, the gains and losses have been slight, less than a pound for women of all ages except 30 to 49, who averaged a 1.4 pound gain. For men, those on the younger and older ends of the age spectrum lost weight, while the 30-59 age range stayed largely the same. 

Trends were similar in some international cities. Female Fitbit users in London, for instance, started to gain weight in April. However, certain cities like Tokyo saw both men and women maintain their weight throughout the spring.

Lockdown bread mania also manifested itself in food logging data. Carbohydrates as a percentage of calories consumed started climbing almost exactly as shelter-in-place orders started to spread across the US. It’s true, many of us turned to bread and other carbs during our time at home.

The Basics are Still Best

We wanted to see what factors that were consistent for those that lost weight as well as those who gained. According to the data, while we may be off of our normal health and fitness routines, the tried and true weight loss tactics still work—quarantine or no quarantine. Common factors among those who lost weight included:

They moved more. Steps matter. On average, users who lost more than five pounds from the end of March to late May took 1,500 more steps per day than Fitbit users who gained more than five pounds. That number of steps equals an extra five miles per week.

On average, men who lost more than five pounds took about 9,800 steps a day, while women who lost more than five pounds hit 8,400 steps a day. On the flip side, men who gained more than five pounds took, on average, less than 8,300 steps per day, and women who gained more than five pounds took less than 7,200 steps a day.

They slept well. Fitbit users who maintained their weight achieved, on average, +0.5 points more on their sleep scores than those who gained more than five pounds.

An overall sleep score is a sum of your individual scores in sleep duration, sleep quality, and restoration, for a total score of up to 100. Most Fitbit users get a score between 76 and 78—which signifies fair to good sleep scores.

Women who maintained weight during the study period had a sleep score of almost 78 while men hit 77.

Studies show getting enough high-quality sleep can positively affect your energy, activity, mood, weight, and more. Sleeping well can also help your body regulate metabolism, regulate food cravings, and enable you to make better decisions about what and when to eat.

They tracked their weight. Those users who took an active interest in their weight were able to maintain it better. On average, Fitbit users who maintained their weight weighed themselves 2.5 times more often than users who gained more than five pounds. Men weighed themselves more often than women.

Regularly hopping on the scales means you can notice small weight gains before they become bigger ones. And research agrees—regular weight checks lead to better maintenance. Daily is ideal, but if this starts to mess with your head, stick to weekly.

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