Lockdown weight gain and how to lose it – aim for 1lb per week for the best balance

Are you wondering why you have put on weight during lock-down? Chances are, like many, you have put on around 14-21 pounds. Most people have experienced the lockdown weight gain and are now looking to return to their pre-lockdown figure .

lockdown weight gain
Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

Why have I put on weight?

Lots of people are in the same boat. During the lockdown, some people admit that they did turn to food as a comfort or a way to relieve the boredom, but you may have still gained weight with no change to your eating habits.

The other thing that changed during the lockdown, was a reduction in our activities of daily living. These are the activities that you do every day but may not give them a second thought.

It takes energy to walk the kids to school; to go shopping; laps around the office and taking a lunchtime stroll.

Chances are if you were housebound during the lockdown, these activities diminished. You may have taken some exercise, but the likelihood it was a walk to the park to stretch your legs.

Do small activities really make that much difference?

Yes! Your daily activities can be a large part of your energy use each day and we often overlook them.

If we do a little bit of maths, we can figure out exactly how moving less may have contributed to the weight gain you see today. We have been leading a disrupted way of life for just over one year now. Certainly in the UK, we have been disrupted since March 23rd, 2020, taking us to approximately 14 months at the time of writing.

Most people tend to have gained between 14-21 pounds. A quick calculation tells us that we have gained at a rate of 1-1.5lb per month, you may have gained up to 2lb per month.

We know 1lb of fat equates to around 3500kcal. So we have reduced our calorie expenditure by between 3500kcal-5250kcal each month. Divide this by 30 days and we can see we have a calorie surplus of around 117-175kcal per day.

These are not large numbers. 117-175kcal per day equates to a relatively small amount of additional movement in our day.

Reversing the gain

It stands to reason that once you become more active again, your weight gain will reverse over time. This is a good time to reflect on the relationship between time and your weight gain. You have put on weight over 14 months, so expect that it will take you this long to lose it again. You can of course speed up the process, but you will need to increase your activities to make this happen.

This is a time to be kind to yourself. The realisation of how much weight you have gained might cause you to want to drastically reduce calories and take up every form of exercise out there, but the simple fact is, even with a strict diet and exercise regime in place, you should still be expecting 4-6 months of work.

If you have been sedentary for the most part of the lockdown, you should ease into a new routine. Relax, do not place unrealistic pressures on yourself, and accept a longer-term goal plan for losing weight.

Aim to lose 1lb per week by increasing your exercise and decreasing your calorie intake. We know that we need a calorie deficit of 500kcal per day to achieve this and it is a healthy and realistic goal.

Time to make a plan

We are now starting to see a gradual return to some activities. We are now allowed to do much more than in the previous 14 months and we all hope this trend will continue.

Now is a good time to make a plan to get back in shape. Keep those goals realistic and avoid crash dieting and over-exercising, these techniques will take longer as the failure rate will be high. Rather than re-starting failed attempts over and over again, create a sustainable plan.

Aim for a deficit of 500kcal per day. Make a large proportion of this food-based, so aim to reduce your calorie intake by 350-400kcal per day and start exercising more. Aim for a half an hour session each day or just up your steps and walk more.

If you are in no rush to lose weight, you can of course, just increase your activities of daily living to pre-lockdown levels and aim for weight loss over the next year.

Whichever way you choose to shed the weight you put on, keep it healthy and consistent for the best results. If you want to know more about losing weight read Slow down to lose weight – a long term plan. and Lose weight: The basics for sustainable weight loss and to ramp up your results, take a look at Protein and strength training for weight loss.