HAWTHORN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In college, there’s the Freshman 15, but during the pandemic, the weight gain has been much more for a lot of people.

Nutrition, hydration, sleep and exercise have been put on the back burner, and it’s having an impact on our health.

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Deshira Shkembi, an EMT from Hawthorn, worked through the pandemic and saw the worst of it firsthand.

“The stress levels, you eat a lot more, and you eat out a lot more,” she told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.

She admits she gained some pounds. Shkembi is not alone.


“We’re really seeing that the 12 months of the pandemic and all the accompanying changes are beginning to wear on people,” said Dr. Lynn Bufka, senior director at the American Psychological Association.

She says numbers from the organization’s most recent survey are not surprising, but should be a warning.

According to the survey, 61% of adults experienced unintended weight changes. Eighteen percent of adults lost weight, losing an average of 26 pounds, while 42% gained weight, putting on an average of 29 pounds.

Millennials gained 41 pounds on average, and essential workers gained 38.

“It should be a warning to us to perhaps take some time to restock and examine what’s happening,” Bufka said.

“If an individual has gained weight over the pandemic, don’t beat yourself up about it,” said Farah Khan, a registered dietician with Farah Z Khan Nutrition.

She says slowly make an effort to return to healthier habits. Start with a fake commute to work or class to get back on the go. Assess your eating habits and how they’ve changed.

“Is there an increase in ordering out or increase in snacking because now that we’re at home so much, you know, our kitchen is very accessible to us?” she said.

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If you’re snacking more, figure out why. If it’s because you’re hungry, try to schedule a snack time and plan healthy options.

“If [you’re snacking because] you’re bored and you’re getting up and you want activity or entertainment in between certain projects, find something else to do,” Khan said.


Also, consider your sleeping habits, says Bufka.

“When our sleep gets disrupted, that can also then make it harder for us to stick to healthy choices when it comes to what we’re eating,” she said.

The survey also found 67% of Americans aren’t getting the sleep they want.

That’s the case for Elmwood Park resident Usha Sherman. Two months into the pandemic, she felt groggy during the day.

“At nighttime when I’m supposed to be sleeping good, I’m, like, up in every few, maybe 45 minutes to an hour, I’m up. It’s like something disturbs me,” she said.

Spring vibes help.

“This week, I’ve been feeling better,” Sherman said.

If sleep poses a challenge, note routines aren’t just for babies. Bufka suggests setting an alarm not just to wake up, but for bedtime too. She also urges no screens.

Another tip for those having trouble sleeping — write down those racing thoughts in a notebook, then literally close the book on them until the morning.

“We’re going to be better able to face the threats and challenges if we’re at our healthiest,” she said.

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Use this moment as an opportunity to be your best, healthiest self.

Vanessa Murdock