Research published in the Nutrients journal suggests that focusing on your stress levels can impact your waistline in a positive way - without even thinking about what and when to eat.
A 16 week study found that low-income, overweight mothers of young children ate less junk food with lifestyle intervention. By lowering the mums' stress levels, they were able to make better food judgements on their own.
Notable facts on the study:
- 338 participants
- Mothers who were overweight or obese
- Between the ages of 18-39
- Stresses these women face: financial problems, neighbourhood safety, frequent moving, unstable relationships, multiple children
- This population is more likely to retain 4 or more kilos of pregnancy weight after childbirth, and have a higher risk of life-long obesity
- The program aimed at the mothers focused on healthy eating, physical activity and stress management
During the course of the program, many of the participants realised the extent of their stress levels, simply by being made aware of stressors. For example, many of the women had had and neck pain, reported feeling impatient and issues with sleep - but they didn’t realise this was from stress.
Once the study was over, analysis of the data suggested that the mothers’ lowered perceived stress was a top factor that influenced their decision to eat high-fat and fast food. Instead of just telling people what to eat and what not to eat (which most people know what ‘eating healthy’ looks like anyway), this study suggests that we need to attack the sources of, and perceptions of stress that drive us to unwanted behaviours.
212 participants were placed into the intervention group, which included testimonials about healthy eating, stress management and physical activity. They also received 10 support group teleconferences during the study. The rest of the women were simply given materials on print about lifestyle change. The study showed that the intervention group showed a higher likelihood of reducing their high-fat and fast food consumption.
Find ways to reduce your stress levels, and you may find yourself craving healthier foods.
Tips from the study:
- Compare a bag of chips to a bag of apples - the chips may be cheaper, but the apples go a lot further in providing family snacks.
- Start a household responsibility chart, assigning tasks to your kids. Reward them with hugs or individual attention when completing the tasks.
- Feeling overwhelmed? Take some deep breaths.
- Shift your thinking: catch your thoughts when you start to blame yourself for things going wrong. Instead, train your mind to focus on solutions.
- If an issue is not within your control, find ways to control your negative emotions about it.
- Start to explore ways to boost your confidence about the future
If you find yourself spinning your wheels, always trying the last diet or crazy exercise regime and getting nowhere (or worse, taking a few steps back!), then it might be time to check in with your stress. Not only can managing your worries lead to better nutrition outcomes, but you'll sleep better, feel more energised to crush your workouts and get more out of life too! Do yourself and your family a favour. Remember to take the time to take care of your precious mind, you deserve it!
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- Chill Out by iThrive Nutrition
- Super B Daily Stress + by Ethical Nutrients
- Withania by Nature's Sunshine
- Magnesium Stress Ease by NutraLife
Mei-Wei Chang, Roger Brown, Duane T. Wegener. Perceived Stress Can Mediate the Associations between a Lifestyle Intervention and Fat and Fast Food Intakes. Nutrients, 2020; 12 (12): 3606 DOI: 10.3390/nu12123606>