A nationwide survey of over 5,000 adults has revealed that over four in 10 (41%) adults in England say they have put on weight since the first lockdown in March 2020.

Almost over half a stone (4.1kg) was gained on average by those who put on weight, with one in five (21%) reporting putting on a stone or more. In adults aged 35 to 65 years old, the average weight gain for those who put on weight rises to over 10lbs (4.6kg).

Further reading

The new insights show the extent that lockdowns have impacted people’s eating and physical activity habits. Unhealthy eating habits, like snacking and comfort eating, were reported as the main contributor to weight gain during the pandemic for nearly half (46%) of those who reported gaining weight.

Better Health Campaign

Public Health England have launched the latest Better Health campaign to encourage adults across the nation to lose excess weight, eat more healthily and get active this summer.

It offers free evidence-based support and guidance to those working towards a healthier weight. There are a variety of NHS endorsed apps which will help people to introduce changes that will help them eat better and get active this summer, including the newly updated NHS Weight Loss Plan app.

A high proportion (89%) of adults who said they gained weight since March 2020 said it was important for them to introduce new healthy habits this summer, with nearly half (49%) saying they would like to have a healthier diet. Half of adults (53%) feel optimistic about making the changes they desire, and a majority (57%) would welcome more advice on eating more healthily, ideas for doing so on a budget, and ideas for exercise routines.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist, Public Health England said: "The past sixteen months have caused many to change their habits, so it is not a surprise to see so many people reporting weight gain. We know how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off – so, we are providing a range of support options to help motivate people and help them maintain a healthy weight."

Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion a year

It follows the Government announcement that promotions on food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) in retailers will be restricted from October 2022.

Regulations will be laid in Parliament that will require medium and large businesses, including those with 50 or more employees, to phase out their offering of multibuy promotions such as ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘3 for 2’ offers on HFSS products.

Less healthy promotions will also no longer be featured in key locations, such as checkouts, store entrances, aisle ends and their online equivalents. Free refills of sugary soft drinks will also be prohibited in the eating-out sector.

Obesity is one of the biggest health crises the country faces as almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or living with obesity and 1 in 3 children leave primary school overweight or obese. Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion a year.

Further action as part of the government’s obesity strategy to get the nation fit and healthy will see the introduction of mandatory calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways from April 2022 and restrictions for the advertising of HFSS products being shown on TV before 9pm and online coming into force at the end of 2022.