Canadians put on pounds during pandemic

More than half of the Canadians surveyed (51.4 percent) said they tend to eat more when they feel worried about the pandemic. | Getty Images

Fifty-eight percent of the public acknowledged in an April survey that their weight has changed since COVID-19 began

COVID-wary Canadians have been making more trips to the refrigerator as they look for ways to cope with pandemic-induced stress, says a new report from the University of Dalhousie.

According to a recent study conducted by Dalhousie’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, 58 percent of Canadians who participated in an April 2021 survey acknowledged that their weight has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of that group, nearly three quarters conceded that they have gained unintentional weight since March 2020.

More than half of the Canadians surveyed (51.4 percent) said they tend to eat more when they feel worried about the pandemic.

The survey involved nearly 10,000 Canadians, including nearly 7,700 who agreed that their stress levels were impacted by COVID.

Of the Canadians who admitted to gaining weight, more than 37 percent said they gained an average of six to 10 pounds and another 18 percent said they gained 11 to 15 pounds.

“The COVID 15 is a reality,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab, referring to a 15-pound weight gain scenario.

Charlebois said Canadians’ relationship with food has changed since the pandemic began.

For many, meal management has also become a challenge.

Of the nearly 10,000 Canadians surveyed, only 8.8 percent said they have been able to manage mealtimes properly, on a consistent basis.

Another 32.5 percent said they were able to manage meals properly “most of the time.”

When extrapolated to the wider Canadian population, the survey suggests that more than 42 percent of Canadians have gained weight over the past year or so.

“We know many Canadians struggle to keep their weight stable as they get older, so we should expect Canadians to gain weight regardless,” the Agri-Food Analytics Lab said in an April 27 news release.

“However, in 14 months, Canadians may have gained more weight unintentionally than during pandemic-free periods.”

In the post pandemic period, it is likely that Canadians will begin looking for healthier food alternatives as a means of combatting unwanted weight gain, Charlebois suggested.

“My guess is that as we leave this pandemic, people will actually be looking for healthier options and that health factor will become much more critical,” when consumers make their grocery buying decisions, he said.

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