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5 Ways Stay-at-Home Orders Are Impacting Your Body

A new study reveals exactly what happens to your body.

In very visible ways, the COVID-19 crisis has changed how we live our day-to-day lives. For example, we can no longer enter a grocery store or restaurant without a mask. But not all of the changes were previously visible the naked eye, including the myriad of ways in which the pandemic has affected the human body.

A study published in the journal Obesity in October analyzed the habits of 7,753 adults, who were surveyed amid stay-at-home orders in April. Thanks to the new data, we can more clearly see the impact on our health, both physical and mental.

The conclusions? "The COVID-19 pandemic produced significant health effects, well beyond the virus itself. Government mandates together with fear of contracting the virus have significantly impacted lifestyle behaviors alongside declines in mental health. These deleterious impacts have disproportionally affected individuals with obesity."

Read on for a deeper dive into what researches uncovered or check out The Saddest Restaurant Closures In Your State for the latest restaurant news.

You're cooking at home—and controlling your portions.

snacking while cooking

More people cooked at home during government lockdowns. This likely comes as no surprise—grocery stores across the country endured shortages of pantry staples like eggs, flour, and meat.

We often consume more calories when we eat out at fast-food or casual dining restaurants. Though nutritional information on menus was previously introduced to promote healthier eating choices, it is often misunderstood or overlooked.

Portion control is simplified when the menu is in your own hands. You can pick from three different french fry sizes when you order at McDonald's, whereas you see exactly how many potatoes go into your air fryer at home.

One downside to dining in? Restaurants and their employees are continuing to struggle as the New Year approaches. Here are 7 Restaurant Chains That Closed Hundreds of Locations This Year.

You're eating healthier.

crock pot cooking

Healthy eating increased as more people made their meals at home, according to the Obesity study. Consumers also explored new brands and food items when their go-to choices were out of stock at the supermarket. Nearly 35% of shoppers plan to continue buying a mix of preferred brands and new finds, according to a survey of 1,021 people conducted by Oracle Retail.

Eating healthier decreases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol, according to Harvard Health. For more, here are The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.

You're getting less physical activity.

sitting on couch

Though more people ate healthier at home, physical activity declined. While consuming more nutrient-rich foods is great, there are many side effects of not getting enough exercise—and they span well beyond weight gain. You may find it hard to get a good night's sleep; develop heart disease or high blood pressure; or increase your risk for certain cancers.

Worst of all: Not getting physical activity increases your risk of dying prematurely. It causes more deaths worldwide than either cigarette smoking or diabetes, according to a study published in The Lancet.

Related: 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make

You're feeling more anxious.

depressed Indian woman holding head in hands, sitting alone on couch at home

The Obesity survey revealed that anxiety scores increased during the pandemic. Anxiety can cause digestive problems, headaches, trouble sleeping, and more health problems, according to The Mayo Clinic.

"The COVID-19 pandemic produced significant health effects, well beyond the virus itself," the survey said. "Government mandates together with fear of contracting the virus have significantly impacted lifestyle behaviors alongside declines in mental health."

If you've been feeling anxious lately, here are the 21 Best Foods to Eat When you're Stressed, According to Dietitians.

You are gaining weight.

Male feet on glass scales, men's diet, body weight, close up, man stepping up on scales

Even when combined with eating healthier, less physical activity during the pandemic led the number on the scale to go up. More than 27% of survey participants reported weight gain, and 34% of the almost 8,000 people surveyed suffered from obesity. Some health risks associated with being overweight or obese include diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and even cancer.

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Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda