December 22, 2020

New Survey Finds 71 Million Americans Have Gained Weight Throughout the Pandemic

Americans are nearly as worried about gaining weight between now and the end of the year (53%) as they are about not being able to see family for the holidays (54%)

40 million Americans who are trying to lose weight would give up social media for the rest of the year if it meant losing 10 pounds

Boston, Dec 15, 2020 – Released today, a new survey reveals that 71 million Americans1 have gained weight throughout the pandemic. The survey was commissioned by Gelesis, a biotechnology company using a naturally derived superabsorbent hydrogel to treat excess weight and metabolic disorders.

The pandemic has been the catalyst for significant change in American lives, especially for those actively trying to lose weight. It has posed physical health issues and emotional ones as well with 71% of Americans admitting that their weight impacts how they feel about their identity, particularly among women and parents. However, as a new year approaches, the survey also found that, months into the pandemic, Americans are more determined than ever to lose weight and maintain healthy habits.

The survey highlights the challenges of the weight loss process itself, and the heightened insecurities and barriers for people who are on the quest to shed pounds. The survey found 63% of Americans surveyed agree that healthy lifestyle habits are harder to keep in the midst of COVID-19, over half (52%) of Americans surveyed have been feeling down about the way they look during the pandemic, and nearly 3 in 5 Americans are on a mission to lose weight. In fact:

“While our survey has found Americans have been motivated to develop healthier habits amidst the pandemic, it has also brought to light how many Americans who want to lose weight continue to struggle,” said Elaine Chiquette, PharmD, Gelesis’ Chief Scientific Officer. “In a year when we’ve all already given up so much, our data shows that people would give up even more if it meant being able to lose weight by the end of the year and they remain hopeful about losing weight and feeling healthy in 2021.”

Women and moms bear the brunt of weight gain woes

Weight gain is a universal issue, but during the pandemic, its side effects have hit women and moms in particular harder than men.

Weight gain and its mental load

Adding to these challenges, mental stress and fatigue with weight gain are also taking a toll. Close to half (47%) of Americans who gained weight admit their self-esteem has decreased since March. Others find themselves feeling less motivated (50%), more stressed (41%), sad (36%) or anxious (33%) more often. Over two-fifths (41%) also report not being able to fit into their favorite clothes. The pandemic has highlighted a profound shift in lifestyles and mental outlook: 63% of people found it harder to keep healthy lifestyle habits during the pandemic, 46% have not been feeling like their normal selves and 41% felt unable to take charge of their life. The impact of these dispositions is such that half of the people who have gained weight do not feel good about their health (50%) or their appearance (53%), since the pandemic began.  

The pandemic’s silver lining?

The good news is that Americans were driven to make healthy lifestyle changes during the pandemic, even while many reported they were harder to keep (63%).

A brighter 2021

While in the immediate, Americans are worried about gaining weight during the upcoming holiday (53%) – women more likely (59%) than men (47%) – wellness goals are top of mind for millions of Americans as they look ahead to the new year. Sixty percent of respondents want to feel healthier and 51% hope to lose weight in 2021.

“We have found that in 2021 the hopes of Americans outweigh their worries, and millions are ready to kick off the new year and make changes, including losing weight,” said Chiquette.

Survey Methodology

Gelesis partnered with Kelton Global, an independent, third-party research firm, to conduct an online survey among 1,012 adults in the United States during the period of October 26-November 3, 2020, with an overall margin of error of +/- 3.1%. Kelton set specific interactive quotas based on basic demographic information to ensure the sample is a reliable snapshot of the U.S. population. They use current U.S. Census figures to determine the quotas which ensures the sample mirrors the general population and affords the opportunity to project the data onto the entire U.S. adult population.

About Us

In April 2019, Gelesis received FDA clearance for its lead product candidate, Plenity®, as an aid for weight management in overweight and obese adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-40 kg/m², when used in conjunction with diet and exercise. Plenity is contraindicated in patients who are pregnant or are allergic to cellulose, citric acid, sodium stearyl fumarate, gelatin, or titanium dioxide. The most common side effects were diarrhea, distended abdomen, infrequent bowel movements, and flatulence. Plenity is currently available in limited release in the U.S.

Gelesis’ proprietary approach inspired to structurally mimic vegetables is designed to act mechanically in the GI pathway to potentially alter the course of certain chronic diseases. In addition to Plenity, Gelesis is developing additional investigational candidates such as Gelesis200, a hydrogel optimized for weight loss and glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. This biomimetic hydrogel based on the Gelesis platform technology are also being advanced in other GI inflammatory conditions, such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and functional constipation. For more information, visit or, or connect with us on Twitter @GelesisInc.

1 Extrapolated from 246,324,983 Americans aged 18+. See “Survey Methodology” for additional details.