The Real Reason Why Women Gained More Weight Than Men In Lockdown

Considering the stress of being a woman, is it any surprise?
Women were more likely to put on weight during the pandemic.
Anastasia Dobrusina via Getty Images
Women were more likely to put on weight during the pandemic.

It’s totally normal to put on weight during a pandemic that closed gyms, made it illegal to leave your neighbourhood, and restricted us to the house.

But research shows that women have been more prone to weight gain during this time than men.

That’s because much of the responsibilities of the home, plus caring responsibilities, fell on women, leading many to stress-eat.

With women more likely to bear the brunt of housework and homeschooling, on top of the demands of working in their professional lives, and the emotional labour of maintaining both worlds, their eating habits changed.

Meanwhile, men experienced less disruption during the pandemic, despite also working from home, showed research from Leicester University.

The study analysed data on 938,000 adults to analyse the changes in Britain’s social habits during lockdowns.

They found that women were 44% more likely to go from being a regular weight to overweight or obese, with 13% of women making the jump, while 9% of men did the same.

Young adults also saw similar results, being twice as likely as their older counterparts to see their weight go up.

But it any wonder that this is the case for women?

As well as the gender pay gap, women have also been financially hit during the pandemic.

According to research by the campaign group Pregnant then Screwed, almost half (46%) of working mothers made redundant believe a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy. Meanwhile, 65% of mothers who were furloughed say a lack of childcare was the reason.

“There is mounting evidence showing that women have suffered huge financial penalties largely because of caring responsibilities,” Professor Dr Shumonta Quaderi, a sociologist at the London School of Economics previously told HuffPost.

“Women are losing their jobs at four times the rate of men; women especially in the lowest socioeconomic groups were more likely to be furloughed, women have been forced to cut their working hours and scale back their careers.

“So, when people say the pandemic has set back the cause of gender equality ‘to the 1950s’ we should all take this very, very seriously.”

Healthy eating costs a lot of money, so with women earning less, in precarious work, and less likely to be in senior positions, it’s not too shocking that they may opt for cheaper, more unhealthy food.

Women are more likely to stay home and take on care responsibilities.
Juanmonino via Getty Images
Women are more likely to stay home and take on care responsibilities.

There’s also gendered differences in the home. Where men might “carry on” during lockdowns, women pick up the slack (ergo, emotional labour).

Professor Thomas Yates, from Leicester University, said: “I suspect lockdown had a differential impact on many women’s lives compared to men. Men pretty much carried on as they were, they just worked from home instead. Whereas those school runs, supermarket shops or things that are potentially getting women out of the house more often suddenly stopped.

“And then you have to deal with homeschooling kids and a very different way of living, which was probably quite stressful. So not only was it reducing activity levels and changing diet, stress and mental health problems are probably playing into that as well.”

All these factors has had an impact on women’s mental health, which can affect body image, added Dr Yates.

So it’s totally normal that one might reach for comfort food. And we shouldn’t feel bad for it (it’s the first pandemic for most of us, after all).