Your Stress May Make Your Kids Obese

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Jason manages content for WeightWise Bariatric Program in Edmond, Oklahoma.

We live in stressful times. Both parents are working and taking care of kids, in most households. Many of us are financially stretched. While stress is totally understandable, not controlling it could have an impact on your child’s weight.

New research is finding that the more stressed a parent is the more likely their children will be overweight or obese. There are several factors that come into play. For instance, a stressed parent is often an overworked parent. When they are rushed and dealing with the emotional impact of stress, they are more likely to stop at fast food restaurants. Along those lines, meal planning overall is more likely to be disorganized. This usually results in quick solutions or not really thinking through the healthiest options.

Researchers asked 2,119 parents and caregivers questions about themselves and their children (between 3 to 17 years old). They then measured how many stressors the parents reported. The high risk groups were blacks, Hispanics, kids with single parents, and kids with parents struggling with money.

"You have a hard day at work, and trying to get a nutritious meal on the table can be overwhelming and expensive,” says Eleanor Mackey, PhD, a child psychologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “It can be difficult to raise healthy kids without adequate resources.”

There are many potential explanations for the obesity problem in the U.S., all of which may impact our health. An unhealthy food supply. School lunches with too much process food items. And quite possibly the biggest factor being stressed and overworked parents who make bad dietary decisions for themselves and their children.

There may also be catch-22 involved. That is, if parents made sure they and their children ate a healthy diet and exercised, it could reduce the stress through biological factors (raised serotonin levels) and an improved self-image.

Quick and Easy Ways to Lose Stress (and Weight!)

So, you say you're ready to make a change and find ways to reduce stress through your diet, and just maybe, an exercise regimen? Don't feel you have to go from zero to 60 and suddenly be an elite athlete obsessed with your health. Small changes can lead to significant results. And once you start seeing results, hey, maybe the elite athlete thing doesn't seem like such an unattainable thing after all. Here are a couple tips:

- Research shows that even short cardio exercise routines can have a major impact on your health. In fact, a new study found that people who did three 10 minute sessions of brisk walking saw a bigger impact on lowering their blood pressure than a group that did one 30 minute routine.

- Small changes in your diet can pay huge dividends in the long run. For instance, buy 100% whole grain bread instead of white bread. Be careful. Just because it says "wheat" doesn't mean it's whole grain. If you drink whole milk, drop to 2%. If you drink 2%, drop to 1% or skim. It may only be a few calories each time, but that will eventually add up.

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