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Coronavirus lockdown insights: a survey

Understandably, it’s a challenging and uncertain time at the moment with the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19), but everything is continuing as normal here at Second Nature.

We previously spoke to two Second Nature members who’ve been completing the programme whilst in self-isolation to find out what’s been helpful and what’s been a challenge during lockdown.

We wanted to gain further, more detailed insights (from people completing the programme and those not on it) into how everyone’s behaviours and priorities around health and wellbeing have changed since going into lockdown. These insights are super helpful to keep us up-to-date and allow us to reflect any changes in decisions we make!

Second Nature is a 12-week digital programme that helps you to build healthy habits and lose weight in the long term. It combines support from registered nutritionists and dietitians with the convenience of an app-based programme.

We spoke to 500 people on the Second Nature programme and 1,300 people who’re thinking about joining the programme to gather these insights. Here are the top 5 things we’ve learned:

1) People feel out of control with healthy habits

Routine and staying ‘on track’ are of high priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted a lot of people’s routines and they’re struggling to adjust to their new lifestyles. People are also finding themselves building habits they’d like to ditch, such as snacking more often.

We’ve seen a trend around a loss of control around food in particular. In the past few weeks searches around how to control eating/snacking have dramatically risen. Related to this, people are finding meal prep a bit more challenging.

There’s a general feeling of ‘lack of control’, especially in terms of their environment, loss of flexibility, and disruption to routine. Here are some quotes for people on the Second Nature programme:

‘I can’t plan in advance as I worry about not being in the mood’

‘I’m working from home at the mo – get up and switch on the computer, work most of the day, take the dog for a walk after dinner’

‘Now going shopping once a fortnight whereas I used to go a few times a week’

‘I can’t get ahold of a lot of the ingredients I would usually cook with – haven’t seen a chickpea in weeks’

‘Without commute and work travel it’s easy to do yoga and cook dinner after work’

Key points:

  • Everyone’s priorities around health are related to staying ‘on track’ with healthy habits
  • People are noticing the disruption to their routine, and it makes them feel less in control, with both their environment and their eating behaviours.

2) Weight loss is still important, but not a priority

Weight loss is still important to everyone, which is reflected in recent trends for ‘lose weight at home’ searches, but it’s not a top priority.

Individuals already on the programme prioritised weight more before the pandemic, which perhaps pushed them to make changes and join the programme and make healthy changes. However, priorities have shifted since lockdown, perhaps because they feel like they already have something in place to manage their weight.

Potential new members may also have shifted priorities during these unusual times, but more of these individuals are saying that weight loss is still a high priority compared with those already on the programme.

Perhaps because weight loss is still important, just not a top priority, all individuals preempt that they’ll gain weight and that bothers them. As people’s routines change and they snack more or struggle to prep healthy meals they expect their weight to increase.

We saw a significant drop off in searches for weight loss in March, but since the 29th of March, this has started to rise again, reaching the same level it was in late February. This could suggest that since the initial panic of lockdown, people have regrouped and priorities are shifting once more, towards weight loss.

For individuals on the programme, we saw a trend of motivations shifting from weight to health and overall wellbeing. Overall health and wellbeing isn’t defined by the number on the scale. While many join our programme with the intention to lose weight, most shift their goals to overall health and happiness:

‘My goal at the start was to lose weight but was also about being healthy and not having a constant battle with food and battling weight. I weigh myself now, but I’m no longer unhappy with myself, weight isn’t at the forefront as much. Lost the mentality of ‘I can’t have this or I can’t have that’.’

”I don’t care about what I look like or anything like that, it’s all about feeling good being the best version of myself”

‘I’m not worrying about weight loss, SN supports that as you don’t only focus on that.’

‘I’m not using my goal weight as a focus, but rather focussing on wellbeing.’

Key points:

  • Priorities have shifted away from weight loss at the beginning of the lockdown period
  • Searches for weight loss have increased dramatically since the end of March
  • For people on the programme already, there was a priority shift from weight loss to overall health and wellbeing.

3) The way we exercise has changed

Understandably, there has been an increase in exercising at home. People are searching for home exercising options. Interestingly, home exercise searches appear to be combined with weight loss searches, with search terms like ‘exercises to lose weight at home’ or ‘home workouts to lose weight’ trending.

However, we’ve seen that a lot more potential new members expect a significant decrease in time exercising compared to people on the Second Nature programme. This suggests that people on the programme are more confident that they’ll be able to keep up activity levels during lockdown than potential new members.

We emphasise on the programme that exercise is only one of the pillars of health and weight loss, alongside sleep, mindset, and nutrition. Because of that, individuals on the programme are arguably more likely to exercise for the intrinsic benefits, rather than with weight loss in mind, which research suggests increases the chances of us keeping it up.

Key points:

  • A large number of those not yet on the programme expected to see a significant decrease in the amount they exercise during lockdown
  • Many people on the Second Nature programme expected their exercise time to increase.

4) People have new, different worries

Given the current environment, many of us are likely to be experiencing a higher level of stress and anxiety. These feelings can stem from uncertainty around the future, fear for the health of ourselves and loved ones, and concerns around the economy and our financial security.

On top of this, we’re also adjusting to new routines which involve working from home and limited social interaction.

So, understandably, we’ve seen a shift in priorities from weight loss specifically, towards mental well-being.

All individuals are more stressed, particularly those aged between 20 and 50.

People on the Second Nature programme are more stressed as they’re worried about their health, family, and work situations, whereas ‘weight’ is featured as a stress trigger for those not on the programme.

As we suggested, individuals already on the programme might not be ‘worried’ about their weight as much as they are already on the programme (and hence a potential solution). However, potential new members may turn to Second Nature particularly as other traditional methods aren’t available during quarantine.

Key points:

  • Understandably, everyone has experienced increased stress levels during this strange period
  • ‘Weight’ didn’t feature as a source of stress for those on the programme, whereas it did for potential new members not yet on the programme.

5) Individuals on the Second Nature programme are coping better than potential new members

We saw earlier that people on the Second Nature programme are less worried about gaining weight during this period compared with potential new members.

On top of this, potential new members are expecting to notice a significant decrease in sleep duration in comparison to people on the Second Nature programme. This could be due to the programme focus on mental wellbeing, mindfulness, and improving the quality of sleep.

Quotes from some individuals on the Second Nature programme show how the programme is helping them cope in different ways:

‘I feel very supported – feel like you guys are trying really hard. The mentor is brilliant and things are being tailored and giving out different things like challenges to keep people involved’

‘I think this has shown that the programme has worked for me, that when I was extremely stressed (because of corona), I didn’t dive into a piece of chocolate cake’

‘Without SN this period would be much harder’

’10/10 for support thank you very much’

‘Second nature has given a lot of encouragement and habits to get into the right place’

‘Before it was – this is all too hard now to even try and keep on track. I can’t get hold of the foods I eat easily and I’m eating more carbs because I’m stressed …….now it’s – I have all the time in the world to focus on my health & little habits have helped me lose nearly a stone so far so let’s get back to those habits including meal planning, drinking more, keeping a daily food diary, being active every day & weighing myself’

Key points:

  • People on the Second Nature programme expect to continue sleeping well, whereas potential new members expect to experience some disruption to their sleep
  • Trends from interviews with people on the programme suggest that the programme is helping them cope in a number of ways, from support to providing routine.

Take home message

  • We conducted a large survey and some interviews to learn how behaviours and priorities have shifted during lockdown for both people on our programme and those not on our programme.
  • We found most people’s priorities around health are related to staying ‘on track’ with healthy habits
  • People are noticing the disruption to their routine, and it makes them feel less in control, with both their environment and their eating behaviours.
  • Priorities shifted away from weight loss at the beginning of the lockdown period.
  • Searches for weight loss at home have increased dramatically since the end of March.
  • For people on the programme already, there was a priority shift from weight loss to overall health and wellbeing.
  • A large number of those not yet on the programme expected to see a significant decrease in the amount they exercise during lockdown.
  • ‘Weight’ didn’t feature as a source of stress for those on the programme, whereas it did for potential new members not yet on the programme.
  • People on the Second Nature programme expect to continue sleeping well, whereas potential new members expect to experience some disruption to their sleep.
  • Trends from interviews with people on the programme suggest that the programme is helping them cope in a number of ways, from support to providing routine.

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