With most Americans staying at home and unable to stick to their usual food and exercise routines, there have been plenty of jokes about gaining the “quarantine 15” during the stay-at-home orders. But new data from Withings, the makers of digital scales, shows that people aren’t gaining much weight — and anyway, say health experts, weight shouldn’t be a source of stress in the middle of a global pandemic.
According to Withings, Americans have gained an average of just 0.21 lbs. over the last month, based on anonymous data from over 100,000 people via the company's wifi-enabled scales. Only 37 percent of Americans have gained more than a pound, Withings found.
The data, gathered from over 2 million users worldwide, is similar in other countries as well. In the U.K., people have gained an average of 0.35 lbs., Germans have added an average of 0.41 and Italians went up by just 0.42. Withings found that the most weight gain (but still very little) occurred in China, with people adding an average of 0.55 lbs. The smallest weight gain was in France, for an average of 0.19 lbs.
There are a few speculative ideas as to why weight gain stayed fairly stable, from more home-cooked meals, which tend to be healthier, to increases, in some states, in walking. But also, it is important to consider that Americans typically gain 1 to 2 lbs. a year.
And regardless of how much is lost or gained during quarantine, many dietitians are emphasizing this is not the time to stress about weight. Americans are already under plenty of other stressors — lack of childcare, lost jobs and income, and the virus itself — is enough to worry about.
“Gaining weight during this period, I want to be super clear, is not a problem,” Whitney Catalano, a registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating, told Outside. “If the worst thing that happens to you from this is that you gain a few pounds, then consider yourself lucky. Everyone’s routines, everyone’s habits, everyone’s quality of life is drastically changing right now.”
And focusing too much on weight can be extremely harmful to people who currently have or are recovering from eating disorders, who may already be struggling while out of their regular routines.
Eating disorders are often “about control,” Dr. Dorie McCubbrey, an eating disorder and addiction expert, previously told PEOPLE, and it’s tough to maintain that control during a constantly changing pandemic.
For those who are struggling, McCubbrey recommended working through the anxiety about being in quarantine.
“Try to get in touch with [what you’re] feeling,” she says. “A big part of our fears and our worries and our stresses is future-based.” Instead, she suggests working to “mindfully bring ourselves back to here and now.”
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