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The last year and a half has been a period of adjustment for many. Some of us have taken time during the pandemic to take stock in ourselves and pursue a healthier lifestyle. Others of us have become porkers. We know who we are.
We kid, of course, but there’s no doubt that a lot of people put on weight in the last 18 months. In a national survey of 2,044 adults conducted in March, 57 percent said they had gained weight during that time. And the number was even higher among Boston.com readers: In all, 64% of the almost 600 readers who responded to our poll said they put on the pounds — 19% saying they gained less than 10 pounds, and a whopping 45% admitting they added more than that.
But that does leave a fair number of folks who went in the other direction: In fact, almost 15% said they managed to lose more than 10 pounds since March of 2020. Here’s how the numbers broke down:
(It’s worth noting that the “OTHER” responses consisted primarily of people who lost, then gained, or gained, then lost — it’s been a rollercoaster, people!)
And while a far greater number gained than lost, the losers (so to speak) were very eager to share how they managed it. Almost 100 people provided insights into their pandemic weight journeys, and most of those were people who took it all off. From their comments, we gleaned that these factors were key to staying fit during these long pandemic months:
1) Working from home. Yes, you’re closer to your refrigerator, which is a negative. But that seemed to have been balanced out by the ability to exercise more during the workday (“push-ups and planks between team calls,” one reader suggested), cook healthier meals and, if WFH eliminated a long ride to work, replacing travel time with exercise: “Not having to commute allowed more time for jogging, biking, hiking, and home workout videos,” said one reader. (That must have been some commute.)
2) Staying away from, well, fun. “For me, the reason was simple: no bars, no restaurants, no vacations … all that bad behavior was eliminated,” noted “Chomp” from Hopkinton, while Randy from Medford says he “picked up cycling and took a break from drinking,” which is quite a trade-off.
3) Being an overachiever. “Scope” from Roxbury: “With the gym closed, I bought a stationary cycle and a paddle board to augment my regular runs. I also intensified chin-ups, push-ups and sit-ups at home, integrating them into any open moments (including while watching TV). It was essential to maintain (highly focused) discipline over my meal portion sizes and to keep snacks and sweets to a minimum.” Scope, we salute you.
Below, some examples from Boston.com readers about how they lost weight, or what caused them to gain it, during the long, weird months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“Too much comfort food and good wine.” — John, Westwood
“I tried to go on long walks with my dog and did exercise first thing in the morning. But I still gained a few pounds!” — Kathy, Brookline
“Work days never end when working from home. Pantry always within 20 feet of workspace. No time to myself. Babysitting help from grandparents was not an option. Basically have to trick myself into any physical activity by walking as much as possible with young son. I always feel guilty sticking my wife with toddler duty while I take time to work out.” — Chris, Milford
“Work from home meant not getting up from my desk for eight hours a day.” — Anne, Nantucket
“It was very hard to stay focused on fitness. While I walked a lot, I also baked a lot! Tray bakes, coffee cakes, great bread — my carb consumption went up exponentially! Since April, I’ve been making healthy choices — and I stopped baking!” — Doug, Westwood
“I typically move around a lot for my office job, with a 1-mile walk to MBTA and a long lunch walk in Boston. Being home, I didn’t realize until recently how little activity I was doing on a day-to-day basis. This made it challenging, along with it being easier to stress eat at home.”
“Tried to walk — but had no days off…”
“I exercised for about four months, then everything just seemed too hard. I had been laid off and had some issues with depression and anxiety.”
“After I recovered from what was probably COVID in March of 2020, I started exercising regularly, and kept it up for about 90 days; then, I found myself seeking entertainment on Netflix, YouTube, etc., and stopped.” — Anabel, Lexington
“Fitness plays an important role in strengthening our autoimmune systems. When the pandemic began, I made the conscious decision to double-down on exercise and a healthy diet. Trail running, walking, home workout routines, eating minimally processed foods — I lost 40 pounds and am stronger and faster than I’ve ever been.” — Joe, Easton
“Walked outside as much as possible. Joined Noom.”
“Walked dogs more often while working remotely — also during the pandemic created a walking group with other dog owners. We all were wearing a mask but it helped socialize during lockdown. Challenges were: gym being closed, working from home and being too close to the fridge and pantry — too much snacking! On the other hand, I was not eating out at restaurants as much and cooking more healthier meals at home.” — Maria, Hudson
“I’ve lost 80 pounds during the pandemic. Remote work has eliminated my long commute and allowed me to focus on lifestyle changes and maintaining an exercise routine.”
“Using commuting time to work out, cooking healthier at home.” — Kara, Boston
“I picked up cycling and took a break from drinking.” — Randy, Medford
“I was not working in the office so I was able to garden and go for daily walks while still able to get my work done from home.” — Ana, Boston
“Fasting from 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. has helped a ton.” — Chad, Fall River
“My husband and I both stayed active by walking and biking outdoors, and were fortunate enough to be able to purchase a Peloton bike. We also both continued our jobs working in-person full time (teacher and nurse) so we weren’t sitting at home working remotely. The best thing I did was joining a group of other ‘losers’ to get tips on healthy eating and inspiration to stay on track to work toward my weight loss goal.” — Toby, Tewksbury
“Forty-minute workout when I wake up. Push-ups and planks between team calls. No snacks. One meal a day.”
“Having long COVID, no appetite and generally being pretty tired helped. When I had bursts of energy, I would do simple calisthenics and kettlebells.”
“I went running in any weather and took up roller skating too. Exercise kept me a little bit sane.”
“After gaining 15+ pounds, I used the MyFitnessPal app every single day to track food goals and exercise and browsed the ProgressPics sub-reddit to remind myself that I’m just one of many fighting to get and stay in shape after this hellish year.” — Ben, Foxborough
“Intermittent fasting. Eliminated fried foods. Went from coffee to green tea. Walked dog everyday. No starch on side. Smart snacks in between. Mindful of caloric intake.”
“Use the great outdoors! Consider it both your ‘free gym’ AND your everyday, super accessible, FREE therapist! You’ll get those ‘happy’ vitamin Ds, all while moving that body of yours out in fresh air. Keep trying for the same time every day. Sticking to a routine is great mental practice.” — Sarah, Somerville
“During the first three or four months of the pandemic I lost a little over 15 pounds. For me, the reason was simple: no bars, no restaurants, no vacations … all that bad behavior was eliminated. Then, since I was trying to limit going out grocery shopping, I started rationing what I was eating. A turkey sandwich with 4 slices and 1 slice of cheese became a turkey sandwich with 2.5 slices and 1/2 slice of cheese. That went a long way.” — Chomp, Hopkinton
“I’m 60 years old and I’ve always been active. With the gym closed, I bought a stationary cycle and a paddle board to augment my regular runs. I also intensified chin-ups, push-ups and sit-ups at home, integrating them into any open moments (including while watching TV). It was essential to maintain (highly focused) discipline over my meal portion sizes and to keep snacks and sweets to a minimum (wine consumption, however, increased during the pandemic). My privilege (no kids and no negative financial impact due to remote work) allowed me the time and overall context to increase my fitness regime. I don’t know if I’m healthier, but my overall fitness has improved since March 2020.” — Scope, Roxbury
“My family and I used last year’s lockdown to exercise more and eat healthier. With everyone at home and so much more free time available to us, it was easy to find time to exercise and get in the habit of cooking meals healthier than typical school cafeteria or fast food restaurants. As a result my teenage son who was overweight lost 30 pounds and my wife and I lost 10 pounds. Today my son is enamored with living a healthy lifestyle and goes to the gym every single day, which is something he never did before the pandemic.” — Mike, Haverhill
“I continued to run three to four times a week (about 15 to 20 miles), did calisthenics workouts (push-ups, pull-ups, etc.) and cooked most of my meals. I also kept track of my steps per day, and walk my dog three miles or so every day. I don’t think 2020-2021 negatively affected my physical health, but I do feel like it has dampened my mental health a bit since I can’t see all my family and friends or travel much.” — Helen, Wakefield
“Not having to commute allowed more time for jogging, biking, hiking, and home workout videos. I also had the time to meal plan and cook three healthy meals a day at home instead of eating out. I lost a significant amount of weight and am now trying to keep it off even though I’m starting to go out more again.”
“It’s all about portion size and stocking healthy snacks for me — diets don’t work for me long-term because that’s not how I normally eat. If I order takeout, I only put half on my plate and put the rest in the fridge. And since I’m in the house all day, I stock baby carrots, apples, and almonds so that snacking/mindless eating isn’t something bad. Lost 25 pounds!” — Dave, Brookline
“My diet consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, grains (including an English muffin or mini bagel daily as part of my breakfast), seafood, nondairy milk, and dairy yogurt and cheeses. I eat virtually no meat or poultry. I don’t deny myself occasional cookies, candy, ice cream, pasta, pizza, or wine. I live in an urban area, and even though I have a car, I walk most places.” — Matt, Andover
“Every day for 5 months I was tracking my calories both from an input (reading food labels and logging in Excel) and output standpoint (thanks to Fitbit showing my calories burned). I logged the deficit in calories for the day, my weight every morning, whether I exercised that day or not (weightlifting or walking 10,000 steps on Fitbit counts as an exercise day) and watched myself slowly lose 20 pounds over the course of five months. It was very tedious tracking foods and measuring things like olive oil and other meal portions, but I got the hang of it and used rough numbers when I wasn’t 100% certain.”
“Walk walk walk walk. Pilates on the mat at home. Intermittent fasting. Strict adherence to Mediterranean diet.” — Kate, Rockport
“Picked up running and ate healthier. No ‘free cookies and pizza’ left out when I’m working from home.”
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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