IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Gained a few pandemic pounds? Who cares! If you do, here's some advice

Vicky Nguyen and Dr. Natalie Azar talked about why people may have gained weight this year.
/ Source: TODAY

Americans gained weight during the pandemic: According to a recent study, people gained half a pound every 10 days in quarantine, coming out to around 20 pounds of weight gain in a year.

NBC News medical correspondent Dr. Natalie Azar discussed what may have led to the weight gain.

"I think there's probably four main reasons why people are gaining weight," Azar said. "One is that stress can lead to weight gain. People were not engaging in as much exercise. They may not have been eating healthy food. And I think one of the biggest drivers is that many people increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic."

NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen walked viewers through some of the health plans available to help people lose weight as the world begins to reopen.

1. Noom

Noom, which offers customized health plans, told TODAY that the app was downloaded nearly four million times in the United States this year. The app offers multiple programs and promises diet-free weight loss: Instead, it aims to help build healthy habits and sustainable behaviors. The app also connects people with a coach and other users for motivation and support.

2. Medifast

Medifast told TODAY that the company is projecting their revenue will top $1.4 billion this year, nearly double what it made in 2019. The company offers a coaching and meal replacement plan called Optavia, which aims to help people build healthy habits for long-term success.

3. WW

WW, formerly known as Weight Watchers, told TODAY that their digital subscribers jumped by 16% in the past year. Named the best "commercial" diet plan for weight loss by U.S. News & World Report in 2021, WW uses a simplified calorie counting system that is personalized based on your age, weight, height and other factors.

4. Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet isn't a business plan like the other programs, but it was ranked the best overall diet by U.S. News & World Report in 2021. The diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and whole grains, while minimizing sugar, refined carbs, saturated fats and fatty or processed meats. With lots of flexibility, room for generous portions and emphasis on a healthy eating pattern, the diet can work for nearly anyone.

The American Heart Association reports that a Mediterranean diet might help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and other experts believe that it can have health benefits like regulating blood sugar, fighting cancer and even protecting against dementia.

How can you find a diet plan that works for you?

When trying to lose weight, it's more important to focus on a long-term pattern, instead of a short-term solution. To set yourself up for success, Nguyen recommends looking at programs that focus on diet, since weight loss is more about dietary changes rather than adding exercise.

When choosing a program, think of factors like cost — some programs can get pricey, but they may offer useful tools like access to a counselor or dietitian, or perks like recipes.

"It's not just the bottom line costs, it's what do you get long-term," Nguyen said.

When looking for a diet program, there are some red flags: Nguyen especially advises against any program that recommends diuretics or expensive supplements, which may help you lose weight in the short-term but aren't sustainable.

"You're really looking at sustainability," Nguyen said. "Is this something that's going to put you on a track to develop good habits that you can then carry on by yourself?"