The social isolation enforced as a result of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have impact families’ lifestyle and eating habits. Routines quickly changed as parents and kids spent all their time at home. Lack of structure and more time at home has led to many of my patients consuming more than they previously had. During in-person school days, kids do not have access to food at any time they want. In addition, parents are stressed.
Child and Teen Weight Gain
There are several reasons for a surge in weight gain among children during the pandemic –
- Easy access to food – During in-person school days, kids do not have access to food at any time they want. Now, at home, they can grab a snack between classes at their leisure.
- Another aspect is that health education has been cut back in classrooms.
- Lack of structure and more time at home has led to many of my patients consuming more than they previously had.
- Stress – This may have led to easier meals or lack of structure for yourself and for your family.
Surge in Eating Disorders
Since the pandemic began, isolation, anxiety and hours upon hours of screen time have led to a surge in eating disorders among adolescents. Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, excessive exercise and other extreme measures related to diet. Although they can affect anyone, they’re most common among adolescent girls and young women, who are more likely to be preoccupied with their physical appearance and susceptible to social pressure to be thin.
Some of the leading factors are –
- Additional anxiety,
- lack of structure,
- lack of access to friends,
- loss of big life moments can all fuel these feelings as well.
Parents can make healthy food choices readily available, even quick and easy options can work. Be aware and talk to your kids. If you notice changes in eating patterns, on either end of the spectrum, take note of that. If able, resume family meals, which have been shown to have a positive effect on both kids and teens eating habits, body image and weight status.