Stress to blame for pandemic weight gain, says Rockford doctor

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far reaching effect on all aspects of life, including weight gain.

A recent study found that Americans gained more than half a pound every ten days, on average.

Angela Hefti lives in Janesville and says the pandemic impacted her eating habits.

“I’m pretty sure I gained at least 10 to 15 pounds during the pandemic,” she said. “I decided, when I hit 204 pounds, I needed to do something about it.”

Dr. David Girgenti, Director of MedPlus Neck and Back Pain Center, at 6080 Elaine Dr. in Rockford, said, “This extra time on our hands we’re not using it well we’re going to the fridge a little bit too much or worried and stressed too much and consequently the weight starts to pile on.”

Hefti decided to change her lifestyle entirely and started eating low carb meals.

“Since January 24th, I’m down 25 pounds,” she said.

Chrystal Cox had a similar struggle.

“It was hard for a while. You couldn’t go out to eat and do things like that, so we would order in a lot and sometimes not make the best choices,” she said. “In the beginning of February I was like, ok, it’s time to make some changes. Spring is just around the corner and I definitely want to be in better shape for summer.”

Girgenti said stress is a big reason for weight gain.

“We give them very practical ways to decrease their stress, not only through exercise but looking at their hormones, like their cortisol level, particularly because when we’re under stress it affects our adrenal glands. Cortisol levels go up. Cortisol is a fat retaining hormone, imbalances our blood sugar, raises our blood pressure, [and] causes us to not sleep as well,” he said.

The women say they plan to continue their weight loss journeys.

“It’s just really made a huge difference in my self confidence, and I’m just a lot more happy with how I look,” Hefti said.

Cox said, “I have more energy. I’m just in a better mood in general, and I’m motivating myself to keep going.”

Girgenti says he encourages people to relieve their stress by doing activities they enjoy, like spending time doing a sport outdoors, planting, or enjoying the sunlight.

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