“2215.”  That can’t be right. But that’s what my phone tells me is my daily step count last week – down from 8000 a year ago.  To be honest — I’m not completely surprised by the number although I didn’t think my activity was that diminished.   Like everyone else, I’m staying inside, eating comfort foods like chips, and not being physically active.  The farthest I walk is down the driveway to the mailbox.  As a result, I’m gaining weight.  And I’m not alone.

WebMD recently conducted a survey asking readers whether they gained weight during this epidemic.  On average, people gained 8 lbs over the past 90 days.  Twenty percent of respondent gained between 10 and 20 lbs and almost 5% gained more than 20 lbs.  A higher percentage of women reported weight gain compared to men.  The results were very similar around the world.  Interestingly, more men than women gained women in countries other than the United States.  I will also point out the numbers are self-reported. Why does that matter? How many of us admit to weight gain? See my point?  The numbers could be much higher.

The reasons cited were lack of exercise and stress eating.  21% said the weight gain was likely due to alcohol consumption.

Eight pounds may not seem like a lot, but when you consider this was only over a few months, it is a bit alarming.  We know that weight gain is related to many health conditions – it can lead to prediabetes/diabetes, as well as increase risk of cardiovascular disease and worsen high blood pressure.  If we extrapolate these findings, it could mean 80 million American have gained nearly 640 million pounds.  That’s a whopping number!  As we get older, added weight becomes harder to lose, partly due to a decreased metabolic rate.  Any trend towards weight gain needs attention.

If you asked me in March if you should go on a diet, I probably would have said “no.”  It’s a stressful time. We just started to figure out how to deal with a pandemic!  If people were finding some relief from comfort foods such as ice cream and cookies, I wasn’t going to criticize.  Everyone was working from home; schools were closed; there was no sense of normal. Who knew how long stay-at-home would last? Remember — it was only 15 days of quarantine at first.  Now the situation is much different, and we need to refocus on our health.

Yes, this is the time to think about going on a diet – or more accurately, eating healthy.  Intermittent fasting – where you limit the time you eat food typically to 8 hours of the day — might be something you want to consider, after checking with your doctor. Nowadays, you might have more time to make meals rather than buying them, and the Mediterranean diet with its focus on fish could be right for you.  And if you’ve always wanted to try keto—go ahead.  Take the time to learn about it and how it might fit with your lifestyle.   Try something to change your eating routine.

As society reopens, we are starting a “new normal” – and that includes changing how we have been eating over the last couple of months.


  • John Whyte

    John Whyte, MD, MPH

    Dr. John Whyte is a popular physician and writer who has been communicating to the public about health issues for nearly two decades. He is currently the Chief Medical Officer, WebMD. In this role, Dr. Whyte leads efforts to develop and expand strategic partnerships that create meaningful change around important and timely public health issues. Prior to WebMD, Dr. Whyte served as the Director of Professional Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement at the Center for Drugs Evaluation and Research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Whyte worked with health care professionals, patients, and patient advocates, providing them with a focal point for advocacy, enhanced two-way communication, and collaboration, assisting them in navigating the FDA on issues concerning drug development, review, and drug safety. He also developed numerous initiatives to address diversity in clinical trials. Prior to this, Dr. Whyte worked for nearly a decade as the Chief Medical Expert and Vice President, Health and Medical Education at Discovery Channel, the leading non-fiction television network. In this role, Dr. Whyte developed, designed and delivered educational programming that appealed to both a medical and lay audience. This included television shows as well as online content that won over 50 awards including numerous Tellys, CINE Golden Eagle, and Freddies. Dr. Whyte is a board-certified internist and continues to see patients. He has written extensively in the medical and lay press.