Regardless of whether we’d like to admit it, many of us gained unwanted pounds during the pandemic. Nicknamed the “Quarantine 19,” memes and viral videos took over the Internet, making light of weight gain during the past year. And while humor can often be a great mechanism for getting through tough times, the numbers are no laughing matter. According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey, 61% of U.S. adults reported undesired weight changes since the COVID-19 outbreak. Consequently, the physical toll associated with our pandemic-related behavior has brought about one fundamental question: Why do we gain weight in times of emotional struggle? 

The answer is pretty simple. Whether it’s powering through your favorite books on a bad day, spending your sick day in bed catching up on your favorite shows, or grabbing an extra plate (or two) during dinner after a rough week, we’ve completely normalized the idea of over-indulging or bingeing to cope with our emotions. And when that collides with a much more sedentary lifestyle brought on by the pandemic, It’s clear that we’ve found ourselves in a situation where we’ve reframed the use of unhealthy behaviors as a good thing to make ourselves feel better about doing it. 

With this new perception of bingeing, we’ve made it seem like something that’s commonplace, temporary, and manageable. But behavioral science tells us that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. When we engage in unhealthy habits, it’s often because we’re trying to refill our leaky bucket of motivation. It refers to a metaphor commonly used by behavioral scientists to describe our relationship to willpower: every person has a personal bucket of motivation with holes in it, and their motivation is constantly leaking out—fast. To build resilience, we as healthcare marketers and communicators are responsible for refilling that bucket with the tools, resources and initiatives our audiences need, to get them to want to try and try again. But without the contextual cues we typically get from being outside our homes and around others, it’s been increasingly difficult to create new ones to keep people on track.

So as vaccines roll out and social distancing restrictions begin to ease, we have to turn our attention to replenishing motivation in a world where people have been left to feel like they’re at their lowest point. Here are four considerations every brand should be making in the year ahead:

People need community.

Groups of people are often stronger than the individual. And as people crave new ways to connect, it’ll be increasingly important to find ways to connect them with other like-minded individuals. Being a part of something bigger than themselves can help them to feel good and ready to take on the world (or their health) again.

People need accountability.

People like to protect their aspirational self – the person they’d like to be but aren’t quite yet. But to do this, they tend to need someone or something to help them stay on track. It’s much harder to want to accomplish goals if they feel that they’ll be alone in doing so.

People need personalization.

When it comes to a person’s ego, they usually like being the exception to the rule. This means people prefer to have something that feels like it was made just for them, not just for people like them. That means incorporating soup-to-nuts personalization in marketing efforts that are tailored to their individual needs.

People need frictionless.

People need to be able to spend less time deciding if something is “worth it.” Removing friction isn’t just an admirable aspiration for a customer journey; it’s a critical part of keeping them on track. By better understanding what’s been getting in their way, brands can pinpoint the particular moments in which they can provide the most relief.

About the Author:

Khye Tucker is an Innovation Strategist in Columbus, OH. With a passion for writing and a background in communications, Khye strives to bring brand stories to life through a fresh perspective, innovative thinking and creative storytelling.