COVID Reopening: The Challenge of Recovering From Pandemic Weight Gain

As the pandemic wanes, the hope is that Californians will be able to return to a more normal life but will there be a return to a more normal weight? Juliette Goodrich reports. (6-10-21)

Video Transcript

- Well on the road to recovery, Juliette Goodrich on the daunting challenge presented by pandemic snacking.

- During the pandemic, 42% of us gained weight. 30 pounds on average. That probably comes as no surprise because our kitchens became 20 for our vending machines, packed with snacks.

As the Bay Area slowly moves back into a more normal life, many of us vow to return to a life of fitness and better eating habits. But you may have to put up a fight.

- Now, I'm thinking about going back to a healthy diet, but I haven't really done it.

- Comedian and writer Sue Smith before the pandemic.

- I was healthy. I was vegetarian. I was eating quinoa. I was eating kale salad then boom, COVID. I ate a box mac and cheese for lunch.

- Early on as we hunkered down, the sales of packaged food jumped up nearly 88%. Quick carbs and snacks serving up some comfort but also concern. UCSF Dr. Robert Lustig.

- It used to be that 50% of all food was consumed outside the home. And now, that is basically reverted to inside the home. The problem is, we're not eating salmon, we're eating ultra-processed foods.

- Including sugary, soft drinks, breakfast cereal, packaged cookies, salty snacks, and frozen meals.

- Ultra-processed foods and high carbohydrate foods in particular because they're easy and cheap.

- The food industry noticed. Last August, one popular brand of mac and cheese marketed itself to stressed out moms as a breakfast food.

- These are companies doing what most companies want to do, which is to make as much money as possible by selling as much product as possible. And by making that product as attractive and seductive as possible.

- A new book, "Hooked," Investigative Journalist Michael Moss explores the science of food addiction. He details evidence that shows how highly processed foods are engineered to hijack the reward circuits in our brains. We don't just like the food, we--

- Want more and more. I'm actually convinced that in some ways, their products are more trouble for us than other addictive substances.

- Moss says the processed food industry has invested decades into making its products irresistible. He says one tool involves tapping into memory and nostalgia for comfort.

- We went shopping and under the stress and strain of the pandemic, we started buying junk we hadn't had since we were kids.

- It's all stuff that I loved when I was a kid and a teenager. And really my first culinary looks.

- Were just wired to make the wrong choices. When we're stressed, we crave sugar.

- As we return to the office, UCSF Dr. Elissa Epel has some advice for us to get back on track.

- People will be happier and healthier. They will welcome this.

- In a previous study, Dr. Epel found when employers stopped their cafeterias with non-sugary beverages, employees lost weight.

- People can bring to work what they want but we shouldn't be selling and feeding them these unhealthy choices.

- As for Sue, she too wants to change.

- But I have thought about it. So I think that's the first step.

- The next step experts say, avoid ultra-processed foods and reach for a whole food instead. In San Francisco, Juliette Goodrich KPIX 5.

- So how do you spot an ultra-processed food? Well, if the ingredient list is packed with terms you do not recognize, it's a pretty good clue.