Pandemic lockdowns brought about a number of familiar changes for all of us. Some of them, such as B. Strict restrictions on seeing friends and family proved to be short-term. Others, like changes in the nation’s work habits, appear to be here to stay.
But some of the hidden effects of lockdowns on the lives of people in communities across the country are only now becoming apparent.
One is the way lockdowns have impacted the lives of large numbers of Britons who are uncomfortable with their weight.
Now a new study from Slimming World, the leading weight-loss organization in the UK and Ireland, has put the spotlight on the overlooked issue of how a reduction in social connections affects people’s ability to maintain a healthy weight.
When the research was started, Dr. Jacquie Lavin from Slimming World The house is alive why the restrictions introduced by Covid have been a particular challenge for those looking to improve their health through weight loss.
“In many ways, the lockdown has created a perfect storm that has impacted people’s ability to control their weight,” she tells us. “The Slimming World study in particular shows that after nearly two years of lockdown and social distancing, people are feeling less socially connected than ever. This lack of social connection contributes to their weight issues.”
More than a third (38%) of respondents in the survey of 2,000 adults* said they now feel less socially connected than they did before the pandemic, and only 36% currently feel a part of their local community.
When asked about the challenges of controlling their weight since the pandemic, 31% of respondents said they found it “more difficult”, with 12% of them saying it was “much more difficult”. More than one in three of those surveyed stated that they had gained weight in the last two years.
These figures come as no surprise to Jo Gideon MP, who has seen firsthand the detrimental health impact of lockdown in her constituency of Stoke-on-Trent. She believes the broader health impact of lockdown on those looking to lose weight is only now being fully appreciated.
“During the pandemic, many of us found solace in food, which created a pattern of stress, isolation, and addiction to unhealthy food that led to weight gain,” she says The house is alive. “This has continued to create physical and mental health issues post-pandemic, with many people struggling to reintegrate into a social environment.”
The critical role that social connections and peer support play in aiding weight loss emerges as a key theme in Slimming World’s study.
The results suggest that the face-to-face groups in communities across the country provide a vital lifeline for those looking to lose weight. This meant that many people struggled to achieve the healthy weight loss they were striving for when the opportunity to meet in real life was not available.
“Our latest survey shows that one of the most critical issues during lockdown was that people didn’t have access to the support that social connections bring,” says Dr. Lavin. “Struggling with your weight can be a particularly lonely place. Creating opportunities for people to come together in a non-judgmental environment is an effective way to help people manage their weight.”
The crucial role that personal support plays in supporting healthy weight loss is something some MPs are now calling for it to be more widely recognized in public policy debates on obesity, particularly in the context of a broader shift to digital channels for healthcare .
“You can’t replace the importance of being physically in a space and physical and emotional contact,” Jo Gideon tells us. “It’s a much better way to access support. A large number of people have lost confidence in part due to weight gain and it is important that we change our habits and step out of our comfort zone, including visiting communities where you can find support.”
Conservative peer and longtime obesity campaigner Baroness Jenkin of Kennington is also pleased that the new study highlights how isolation from usual support systems makes life more difficult for those trying to lose weight.
“I welcome this report,” she says The house is alive. “The latest statistics show that 28% of adults in England are living with obesity and a further 36% are overweight. The costs, both for the individual and for the healthcare system, are immense and unsustainable. Anything that can be done to help is welcomed.”
dr Lavin shares Jenkins’ view that while weight loss is typically viewed as a personal choice, we should never lose sight of the broader implications for society.
“Maintaining a healthy weight is not trivial,” explains Lavin. “For people struggling with their weight, it has implications for both physical and mental health. This is affecting not only the health of people across the country but also economic activity and is a major challenge for the NHS.”
The numbers confirm Lavin’s analysis. Even before Covid, the UK was in the midst of an obesity crisis, costing society an estimated £27bn and the NHS £6.1bn each year. And this crisis hits the poorest in our society hardest.
“We hear a lot about leveling from politicians,” Lavin tells us. “Part of this has to be making sure we address the health inequalities experienced by different parts of our community. Slimming World does this through its network of 7,700 local groups across the UK and Ireland to support individuals and ease the pressure on health services. This is a resource that frontline healthcare workers need to be more aware of as they support patients struggling with weight loss.”
Ultimately, what this research shows is that social connections and personal support are key to weight management. Creating greater awareness of the importance of social connections is essential if individuals are to receive the support they need to maintain a healthy weight. If we get this right, it will not only benefit those individuals, but society as a whole.
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