Holiday Dieting Proves Divisive, Even Among Those With Pandemic Pounds

Three in 10 U.S. adults say they’ve gained weight during the pandemic, writes food and beverage analyst Emily Moquin, but that’s not necessarily inspiring healthier holiday diets
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Tadiana Martinez
November 29, 2021 at 12:01 am UTC

While no one associates the holidays with healthy eating, Americans are split on whether or not to watch what they eat at this time of year. That means equal opportunities for indulgent and healthy food and beverage brands through the end of the year — and with roughly as many adults making weight-based New Year’s resolutions as the share who did last year, it promises to be a fruitful January 2022 for wellness-centric businesses. 

There’s nothing like the post-Thanksgiving binge to put a spotlight on consumer weight goals. And while a majority (54 percent) of Americans are feeling more health-conscious since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are divided on whether the holidays mark the right time of year to get back on track with healthy eating. 

Nearly a third of consumers report pandemic-related weight gain

While nearly half of U.S. adults report no change in their weight, 3 in 10 say they have gained weight since the start of the pandemic. 

Gen Zers and millennials are more likely than Gen Xers and baby boomers to say they have gained weight (35 percent vs. 27 percent), possibly as a result of more significant disruptions to their daily work schedules, school activities and social lives. The youngest generations are also more likely to have tried each of the diets asked about on the survey: For example, nearly 1 in 5 has tried or is currently following the low-carb ketogenic diet, compared to just 8 percent of Gen Xers and boomers. 

Keto, Atkins and WW Top List of Consumers’ Pandemic Diets

Respondents were asked whether they have tried any of the following diets since the start of the pandemic:
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Poll conducted Nov. 12-15, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with margins of error up to +/-3%.

Consumers divided on whether to moderate their eating and drinking during the holidays

The holidays bring their fair share of indulgences, but Americans are surprisingly split when it comes to monitoring food and drink consumption. The share who say they are conscious of what they eat and drink (49 percent) is just slightly higher than the share of those who do not watch what they eat and drink during the holidays (44 percent).

Pandemic-induced weight gain is also impacting how consumers approach holiday eating and drinking: Those who have gained weight during the pandemic are more likely than those who have lost weight to say they will not watch what they eat around the holidays, while the opposite is true for the share who say they will be conscious of what they eat.

People Are Split Over Whether to Moderate or Indulge in Their Holiday Food and Drink Consumption

Respondents were asked which of the following comes closest to their opinion:
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Poll conducted Nov. 12-15, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with margins of error up to +/-4%.

More Americans are planning New Year’s resolutions, but finances take top spot over weight and diet

Two in 5 Americans intend to make a 2022 New Year's resolution, compared with only 27 percent who recall making one for 2021 — though it is important to note that resolution recall declines over time

The intention to set a resolution declines with age: Just over half of Gen Zers and millennials (54 percent) are looking to set resolutions, while 34 percent of Gen Xers and boomers said the same. 

Weight, food or diet-related resolutions were the most cited resolutions for 2021, but this year, the top resolution category across every generation relates to financial concerns. Among Gen Z and millennials, mental health is the second most popular resolution, whereas for Gen X and boomers, weight or diet comes in second and physical health takes third place.

Consumers Shift New Year’s Resolutions From Weight to Finances Heading into 2022

The share of respondents who said the following were the topics of their 2021 and 2022 New Year’s resolutions:
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Poll conducted Nov. 12-15, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with margins of error up to +/-4%.

Emily Moquin previously worked at Morning Consult as a lead food & beverage analyst.


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