So have we gained weight during the pandemic?

south africans gained weight hello joburg

The LD: The simple answer is yes. A survey found more than half of South Africans gained weight during the pandemic and 69% are bordering on obese.

While the intention of lockdown regulations and physical distancing was to contain the spread of COVID-19, the unintended consequences have been an economic crisis, record-high unemployment and a “plumper” population.


A national survey conducted in the last two months among almost 2 000 South African adults paints a dire picture:

  • 45% of respondents said lockdown regulations impacted their eating and exercise habits for the worse.
  • 44% picked up between 2-5 kg; 15% are 6-10 kg heavier and 4% gained an extra 10 kgs or more.
  • 58% of family members (spouse/children) also packed on a few pounds.
  • Increased weight gain in 15% of pets were also reported, which has equally real health consequences.
  • 34% said their diet consists mainly of takeout and ready-made meals, while a further 30% said they eat what they can afford since their income has been impacted.
  • 42% are exercising less than before the pandemic.
  • 59% are currently on medication for a comorbidity such as heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.

The survey was commissioned by Pharma Dynamics, the largest provider of cardiovascular medicine in the country, to assess the effect of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown on the nation’s eating and exercise patterns.


Forty-three percent of respondents who participated in the survey attributed their change in eating habits to stress and anxiety over what the future holds, while 42% said being confined to their homes also led to more snacking and impulsive eating, and 28% simply ate out of boredom.


Jennings notes that participants were asked to calculate their body mass index (BMI) – a measure of your weight compared to your height. The findings indicated that 69% (almost seven in ten) respondents polled, ranged between overweight and obese.


Jennings says it’s clear that the lockdown promoted dysfunctional eating and sedentary behaviours, which need to be overturned.


“Yes, it’s going to be tough to change habits after a year of comfort-eating, but unhealthy lifestyle habits threaten our health. With many still working from home, confined to small spaces, and the rapid increase in door-to-door delivery services, physical activity, such as going out for a walk during lunchtime or popping out to do some grocery shopping may be even more constrained. Similarly, consumers’ reliance on fast-food delivery services like Uber-Eats and Mr Delivery have increased substantially since the pandemic with many a diet solely consisting of junk food. Should the pandemic trend prevail, obesity may get much worse.


“Moving towards a healthier lifestyle is crucial, especially while we are still battling COVID-19. We need to give our immune systems everything it needs to fight back.


The public can visit either their GP or a pharmacy to have their blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels taken and is advised to do so at least annually.

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