Britain urges people to get healthier after Covid-19 lockdown weight gains

Some 41 per cent of British adults say they have gained weight since the initial March 2020 lockdown. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - The British government is encouraging people to eat healthier and become more active after waistlines expanded for many during extended coronavirus lockdowns.

Some 41 per cent of British adults say they gave gained weight since the initial March 2020 lockdown, according to a nationwide survey of 5,000 people conducted by pollster Opinium between July 2 and 8.

In response, the National Health Service (NHS) is offering various apps and weight loss plans.

"The past 16 months have caused many to change their habits," Ms Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist of Public Health England, said in an e-mail statement. "It is not a surprise to see so many people reporting weight gain."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government is attempting to address a backlog of operations and other procedures in the NHS, and has increasingly highlighted the public health consequences of lockdown restrictions. The main contributors to weight gain were snacking and comfort eating, according to the survey.

The average gain reported was about 4kg. The NHS will run TV advertisements and offer healthy recipe ideas as part of the effort to help people slim down.

"The pandemic has been hugely challenging for everyone," said Public Health Minister Jo Churchill. "We want to make it easier for people to adopt a healthier lifestyle that works for them."

Britain has tried different solutions to rising obesity levels. In May, the government proposed a limit on junk food commercials on television, and called on many food chains to post calorie counts.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson said he was not attracted to the idea of putting higher taxes on unhealthy food as a way to change the country's eating habits.

The government-commissioned National Food Strategy urged the country to impose a sugar and salt "reformulation tax", and use some of the proceeds to expand free school meals and support better diets in deprived communities.

Mr Johnson was hospitalised with Covid-19 in 2020 and blamed his weight for the severity of his condition.

"I had a very common underlying condition," he told a virtual Conservative Party conference in October. "I was too fat."

In March, Mr Johnson said he had dropped weight after giving up chocolate and "late-night cheese", and by exercising more.

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