SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – California plans to reopen its economy on June 15. Vaccination rates, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, are very high. And those who are fully vaccinated two weeks after the last vaccination can enjoy most situations without a mask.
The hope is that the Californians can slowly but eventually return to a more normal life. But will there be a return to normal weight? A national survey found that 42% of us gained weight during the pandemic, an average of nearly 30 pounds.
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Experts told KPIX News that extra weight could be a challenge given the science behind weight gain and the US diet. However, they found that if our viewers were provided with information about science, they would have new tools to face the challenge.
“You know, I’m thinking about eating healthier again, but I really haven’t,” noted Sue Smith, a Los Angeles writer and comedian
Before the pandemic, Smith ate the quintessential California diet.
“I was healthy. I was a vegetarian. I ate quinoa. I ate kale salads, ”she said.
Then the novel coronavirus hit the US coasts and a pandemic was declared. Shelter in place and squatting at home became the new normal. Kale? Which kale?
“I had a box of mac and cheese for lunch,” said Smith.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we just didn’t buy toilet paper. Packaged food sales increased by almost 88%. We ate like never before. Experts stated that quick carbohydrates and snacks were desirable, which was for some convenience but also a concern for some in public health.
Dr. Robert Lustig is Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics in the Department of Endocrinology at the University of California San Francisco,
He believes the food industry is driving sugary processed foods, which drives our bodies and minds to overeat. He told KPIX 5 how the pandemic created a perfect storm.
“It used to be that 50% of all food was consumed outside the home, and now this is largely due to the inside of the home. The problem is that we don’t eat salmon, we eat highly processed foods, ”said Lustig.
Highly processed foods include sugary soft drinks, colorful and sugary breakfast cereals, packaged biscuits, salty snacks, and frozen meals. People snapped them off the shelves.
The food industry noticed. Last August, a popular macaroni and cheese brand marketed itself to stressed mothers – as breakfast food.
“These companies do what most companies do, which is to make as much money as possible by selling as many products as possible,” noted investigative journalist Michael Moss. “And by making this product as attractive and seductive as possible.”
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In a new book, Hooked, Moss researched and wrote the science of binge eating and detailed evidence of how highly processed foods are engineered to hijack the reward circuitry in our brains.
Moss told KPIX 5 that consumers not only “like” the food, they always want more.
“In fact, I’m convinced that their products cause us more trouble than other addictive substances,” explains Moss.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author describes how the processed food industry has invested decades to make their products irresistible. His research found how a tool involves tapping memories and longing for comfort.
“We went shopping and were under the stress and strain of the pandemic,” said Moss. “We started buying scrap that we hadn’t had since we were children.
That’s exactly what happened to Smith. In the supermarket during the pandemic, she went back in time.
“These are all the things I loved as a kid and a teenager,” said Smith. “And my first culinary love.”
Dr. Elissa Epel, professor and vice-chair of the Faculty of Psychology at UCSF, stated that there is a biological reason.
“We’re just so wired that we make the wrong decisions when we’re under stress, we crave sugar,” said Epel.
When the Bay Area returns to the office, Epel has some advice for employers on how to help all workers get back on track. In a previous study, Dr. Epel and her team found that employees lost weight when employers refilled their canteens without sugary drinks.
“People can bring what they want, but we shouldn’t sell and feed these unhealthy choices to them,” said Epel.
Smith looks forward to a change.
“I’ve been thinking about it so I think this is the first step,” said the comedian.
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Experts say try to avoid highly processed foods, and when you feel cravings for a whole food, go for it instead: fruits, vegetables, nuts, meat, eggs – anything that is not packaged and ingredients that you do not knowing.