3 years in: How The Pandemic Affected Us

Over the past year, people worldwide have reported increased anxiety, depression, and mood changes.

A study including 600 adults found that nearly 50% of the participants interviewed reported feeling anxious about their food habits, specifically during the pandemic

Another study, including over 100,000 men and women, found that moderate and severe depression symptoms increased from 6.4% to 8.8% during the pandemic in people under the age of 60, particularly in young women.

Other studies also found that mothers and women, in general, appeared to be particularly susceptible to depression and anxiety during the pandemic. Research suggests there are also links between mental health and diet and exercise.

One survey noted that people who reported negative changes to their exercise habits simultaneously said poorer mental health during the pandemic. In comparison, those who had improved exercise habits experienced better mental health.

More snacking and pastries

In a study including nearly 8,000 people, 30% of adults reported eating more unhealthy foods than usual during the pandemic.

Another study of around 2,500 people found that 45% snacked more than usual during the pandemic, and 50% ate more overall.

Although people reported eating out less and cooking at home more than usual, they also ate more pastries and fried foods. Many studies found similar results with people eating out less but still consuming more food and snacks overall.

Food insecurity

Food choices and eating habits have been influenced by food insecurity during the pandemic. Food insecurity causes negative changes in food intake and dietary patterns due to a lack of financial resources.

A couple of studies noted that people who lost their job, had less work than usual, or experienced sudden changes to their living situation were more likely to report being food insecure during the pandemic.

To cope with these changes, some people ate less and purchased cheaper foods than usual. Others reported cutting back on certain food groups that were more expensive, such as meat and animal proteins, whilst replacing those with more affordable foods.

Effects on people with eating disorders

One study surveyed 5,469 people, 180 of whom had a self-reported eating disorder or eating disorder history. It found that those with eating disorders experienced increased restricting, binging, purging, and exercising behaviours during the pandemic.

Interestingly, it found that even people WITHOUT a history of disordered eating habits experienced higher levels of binging and restrictive eating during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 EAT study surveyed more than 700 young people. The results revealed that elevated stress levels and symptoms of depression were significantly associated with a greater chance of experiencing binge eating behaviour.

Physical activity

Studies have shown a considerable decrease in physical activity and an increase in sedentary behaviour since the pandemic.

One survey, including over 1,000 people from various countries worldwide, found that daily sitting time increased by an average of 58 hours each day during the lockdown.

Another study in adults in Spain reported that the amount of time spent walking each day during the pandemic decreased by 58%, whilst the amount of time spent sitting increased by 24%.

Weight Status

Some people also experienced changes in weight over the past year, some of which may have resulted from changes in their usual food choices and physical activity routines. A few studies found that 30-50% of people surveyed reported gaining weight during the pandemic.

One study showed that people who already had excess weight before the pandemic were more likely to report gaining more weight. But NOT everyone gained weight during this time. In a survey of U.S. citizens, 19% of people reported losing weight, whilst 43% observed no change to their weight.

Studies found that weight gain was linked to specific factors, such as inadequate sleep, snacking after dinner, stress eating, reduced physical activity, and changes in work routines.

How to deal with the new normal


Forget about how things used to be, and reset your expectations based on how things are today. You can do this by focusing on the things in your life that you have control over and can change, rather than those you can’t.


Setting a goal keeps you motivated. Identifying a specific goal or even a few small goals provides something concrete you can work on. Reflect on the specific things you want to change. Be sure to set a goal that is realistic, actionable, measurable, and motivating.


Your plan should not be complicated and should be a simple set of steps you plan to take to help keep your goals. To make your plan, think about all the individual steps you’ll need to take to reach your goal. It might include things such as how much time you’ll need each day, supplies you’ll need, any barriers you’ll need to overcome, and how you’ll document your progress.


If losing weight is part of the new normal you have in mind, resist the urge to focus too much on numbers like your calorie intake or the number on the scale. Instead, focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods that will help improve your mental health and overall wellness.


Remember, this situation is new for everyone. Figuring out your new routine may take time and experimentation. Trust yourself to know what’s best for you on any given day as you aspire to meet your health goals. Try being flexible, having realistic expectations, practising self-acceptance, using positive self-talk and affirmations and leaning on a support system.

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