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New Survey Finds 71 Million Americans Have Gained Weight Throughout the Pandemic

BOSTON, Dec. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Released today, a new survey reveals that 71 million Americans1 have gained weight throughout the pandemic. The survey was commissioned by Gelesis, a biotechnology company using a naturally derived superabsorbent hydrogel to treat excess weight and metabolic disorders.

The pandemic has been the catalyst for significant change in American lives, especially for those actively trying to lose weight. It has posed physical health issues and emotional ones as well with 71% of Americans admitting that their weight impacts how they feel about their identity, particularly among women and parents. However, as a new year approaches, the survey also found that, months into the pandemic, Americans are more determined than ever to lose weight and maintain healthy habits.

The survey highlights the challenges of the weight loss process itself, and the heightened insecurities and barriers for people who are on the quest to shed pounds. The survey found 63% of Americans surveyed agree that healthy lifestyle habits are harder to keep in the midst of COVID-19, over half (52%) of Americans surveyed have been feeling down about the way they look during the pandemic, and nearly 3 in 5 Americans are on a mission to lose weight. In fact:

  • 40 million Americans who are currently trying to lose weight would give up social media for the rest of the year if it meant being able to lose 10 or more pounds
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) of Americans trying to lose weight would give up sex for the rest of the year to lose 10 pounds
  • Just don't take away their Netflix. In a year with limited entertainment or social options, only 17% said they would be willing to give up their favorite TV or streaming service
  • Nearly three in five Americans (58%) say they need more support to lose weight, and 42% don't feel their health care provider helps enough with their weight loss goals
  • 148 million Americans would be open to trying a naturally derived weight loss aid to support them in their journey
  • 116 million Americans who have ever tried losing weight agree the weight loss journey itself is almost as miserable as being overweight; noting cost of healthy foods, lack of time, eating in moderation, and being deterred by slow results as barriers to their goals.

"While our survey has found Americans have been motivated to develop healthier habits amidst the pandemic, it has also brought to light how many Americans who want to lose weight continue to struggle," said Elaine Chiquette, PharmD, Gelesis' Chief Scientific Officer. "In a year when we've all already given up so much, our data shows that people would give up even more if it meant being able to lose weight by the end of the year and they remain hopeful about losing weight and feeling healthy in 2021."

Women and moms bear the brunt of weight gain woes
Weight gain is a universal issue, but during the pandemic, its side effects have hit women and moms in particular harder than men.

  • Women with kids are more likely than women without kids to say other priorities getting in the way is a barrier to living a healthy lifestyle amidst the pandemic (30% vs. 21%).
  • When thinking about the upcoming winter holidays, Millennial women (65%) are more likely than Gen X (47%) and Boomer+ (39%) women to be worried about feeling more stressed or anxious than they do now.
  • Women are more likely than men to report their weight gain during the pandemic has affected their wellness by making them feel anxious more often (39% vs. 26%).
  • 60% of women vs 44% of men report feeling down about the way they look.

Weight gain and its mental load
Adding to these challenges, mental stress and fatigue with weight gain are also taking a toll. Close to half (47%) of Americans who gained weight admit their self-esteem has decreased since March. Others find themselves feeling less motivated (50%), more stressed (41%), sad (36%) or anxious (33%) more often. Over two-fifths (41%) also report not being able to fit into their favorite clothes. The pandemic has highlighted a profound shift in lifestyles and mental outlook: 63% of people found it harder to keep healthy lifestyle habits during the pandemic, 46% have not been feeling like their normal selves and 41% felt unable to take charge of their life. The impact of these dispositions is such that half of the people who have gained weight do not feel good about their health (50%) or their appearance (53%), since the pandemic began.  

The pandemic's silver lining?
The good news is that Americans were driven to make healthy lifestyle changes during the pandemic, even while many reported they were harder to keep (63%).

  • More than 3 in 5 (61%) felt pressure in some sort of way to get healthier and improve their lifestyle habits over the past 6 months; and nearly two-thirds have been more motivated to develop healthy eating habits (64%) and healthy lifestyle habits (63%) as well.
  • Americans who are Hispanic (75%) are more likely than those who are Black (61%) or White (55%) to have felt pressure to get healthier and improve their lifestyle habits over the past 6 months.
  • Many have put these into practice with about half of Americans (51%) cooking at home more often and (50%) drinking more water.
  • About 8% have also tried a meal delivery service.
  • The focus on mealtime has had tangential effects with nearly a third of Americans having enjoyed more meals sitting down with their family.
  • Health habits adopted during the pandemic include 3 in 10 Americans being more active (31%), working out more frequently (29%), nearly a quarter having developed a new morning routine (22%), while others are making it a point to manage their finances (21%), take up a new hobby (18%), meditate (13%) journal (9%) and steer clear of their screens (8%).

A brighter 2021
While in the immediate, Americans are worried about gaining weight during the upcoming holiday (53%) – women more likely (59%) than men (47%) – wellness goals are top of mind for millions of Americans as they look ahead to the new year. Sixty percent of respondents want to feel healthier and 51% hope to lose weight in 2021.

"We have found that in 2021 the hopes of Americans outweigh their worries, and millions are ready to kick off the new year and make changes, including losing weight," said Chiquette.

Survey Methodology
Gelesis partnered with Kelton Global, an independent, third-party research firm, to conduct an online survey among 1,012 adults in the United States during the period of October 26-November 3, 2020, with an overall margin of error of +/- 3.1%. Kelton set specific interactive quotas based on basic demographic information to ensure the sample is a reliable snapshot of the U.S. population. They use current U.S. Census figures to determine the quotas which ensures the sample mirrors the general population and affords the opportunity to project the data onto the entire U.S. adult population.

About Us
In April 2019, Gelesis received FDA clearance for its lead product candidate, Plenity®, as an aid for weight management in overweight and obese adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-40 kg/m², when used in conjunction with diet and exercise. Plenity is contraindicated in patients who are pregnant or are allergic to cellulose, citric acid, sodium stearyl fumarate, gelatin, or titanium dioxide. The most common side effects were diarrhea, distended abdomen, infrequent bowel movements, and flatulence. Plenity is currently available in limited release in the U.S.

Gelesis' proprietary approach inspired to structurally mimic vegetables is designed to act mechanically in the GI pathway to potentially alter the course of certain chronic diseases. In addition to Plenity, Gelesis is developing additional investigational candidates such as Gelesis200, a hydrogel optimized for weight loss and glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. This biomimetic hydrogel based on the Gelesis platform technology are also being advanced in other GI inflammatory conditions, such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and functional constipation. For more information, visit or, or connect with us on Twitter @GelesisInc.

1 Extrapolated from 246,324,983 Americans aged 18+. See "Survey Methodology" for additional details.



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New Survey Finds 71 Million Americans Have Gained Weight Throughout the Pandemic

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Last Updated: 15-Dec-2020