Stress and Your Children
People who feel stressed sometimes eat too much and put on weight.
Your stress levels may also affect the health of your children.
A 2013 study found that children of parents who had high levels of stress had a higher body mass index (a measure of obesity) than those whose parents had low levels of stress. The body mass index was found to be a fiftieth (1/50) higher.
Also, children of parents who had high-stress levels also put on weight at a faster rate (7% or about 1/14 more) than children of parents with low-stress levels.
The research team suggests that parents might buy less healthy foods more often when they are stressed, or reduce how active their household is during such times.
The research team suggests that parents:
- Find ways to better handle their stress.
- Have access to healthy food.
- Stay active.
Weight and stress
Being overweight can put stress on the body and mind. A 2013 study found a link between the stress hormone cortisol and obesity (overweight).
It is suggested that overweight people may be exposed to high levels of cortisol every time they eat. This in itself can increase the risk of heart disease and other stress-related diseases.
So can stress cause obesity?
Work stress, money problems, health problems, exhaustion and the stress of not having a job may cause you to eat less healthy foods and be less active.
Sadness, loss of hope, depression, or diabetes-related distress are examples of feelings that could lead you to eat the wrong foods. These bad feelings may be made better for a little while if you eat high-carb foods such as sweets, pasta and baked goods. That is because when carbs are digested, a hormone called serotonin is released. Serotonin is the “feel good” hormone that makes us feel calmer, relaxed and focused. If you eat more carbs it can make this feeling last longer. Eating to relieve stress, also known as emotional eating, can lead to weight gain and obesity in the long term.
How do I prevent outside stress from causing weight gain for me and my family?
- Learn to handle stress through exercise, yoga, or deep breathing. These can make you feel more relaxed without any extra calories. You will also set a good example for your children about how to cope with stress.
- When you get a craving to eat, ask yourself if you are really hungry, or if you are just stressed. If you are stressed, stop for a minute, take a deep breath, and think of a way to deal with the stress without eating, drinking alcohol or smoking. If your children eat because of stress, help them think of ways to handle the stress without food.
- Keep a food, stress and glucose diary. If you can see when you feel stressed and how you respond, you can see more clearly how your mood and food are linked. Be sure to note if your stress affects how you deal with your family.
- Talk with someone about your stress. Whether it is a friend, loved one, health care provider or counselor, a good listener can help you deal with your stress in a more positive way. Remember, you are doing it for your children as well as for your own health.
Snack on healthier foods and be more active. When you are stressed, keep healthier, low-calorie snacks around that both you and your children enjoy. Being active with your children will give you a chance to spend time with them and relieve the level of stress for the whole family.