The Link Between Stress and Childhood Obesity

Stress is a part of life for adults. Even before the economy crumbled and a good portion of the world found themselves out of work, we always managed to find something to be stressed out about. Unfortunately, it has also become a larger part of our children’s lives as well. Between conflicts and worries at home, a full work load at school, and issues with peers, kids are more stressed than ever, and it’s causing them health problems.

A study performed by the Iowa State University found that stress and childhood obesity may be closely links. Adolescents who are stressed are more likely to become overweight.   The study also determined that children who live in low-income, stressful homes with too little food are at an increased risk. While you may assume that a child who gets too little food at home is more likely to become underweight rather than overweight, it actually makes sense: children who can’t count on a healthy meal at home are more likely to binge when they have the opportunity. Also, families that can’t afford enough groceries typically end up buying very inexpensive frozen or processed foods that are higher in calories and fat, but low on nutritional value.

Factors that play a role in stress and childhood obesity

When it comes to stress and childhood obesity, numerous factors come into play. Obviously, not every child that experiences stress is going to gain weight. Like adults, loss of appetite may actually cause some children to lose an unhealthy amount of weight when stressed out. Biology may play a large role in determining which way the scales tip. According to the study, children of single moms with absent fathers may be at a higher risk of becoming overweight than those who spend at least part of their time with their fathers.

Tips to Reduce Your Child’s Stress Levels

Fighting the link between stress and childhood obesity falls primarily on the parents. Considering most adults are not equipped to handle constant stress, children definitely need a little assistance.

  • Serve healthy meals. This, above all else, may help break the link between stress and childhood obesity. If you serve healthy meals at home and lay the groundwork for your children to make healthy eating decisions, they are less likely to overeat and indulge in junk food or other poor food choices.
  • Listen to them.  Allow your children to vent without judging them or belittling their issues. Just because a slight by a best friend or a pimple on picture day doesn’t seem like the end of the world to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting them in a significant way.
  • Don’t demand perfection. Yes, it would be wonderful if your children brought home a report card filled with high grades, or made every team they tried out for, but expecting perfection puts a lot of stress on your children. No one can excel at every single thing.
  • Exercise as a family. Exercise is an important part of stopping preventing both stress and childhood obesity, especially when everyone gets involved. Not only will you all be engaging in more physical activity, but you’ll be creating a stronger bond as a family.

13 thoughts on “The Link Between Stress and Childhood Obesity”

  1. Really helpful article and if you can get your kids into good habits, exercising, eating well and not being too critical of themselves, it will be so beneficial to their physical and emotional health and wellbeing for the rest of their lives.

  2. Leila J. Healey

    Sometimes mothers are the ones to blame if the kids are suffering from weight issues we tend to over feed them just to give what they want to eat regardless of healthy diet is concerned.

  3. Serving healthy meals is so important. I know some people are like “My kids would NEVER eat that”, but you’d be surprised at what they’d eat if the option is carrots or broccoli.

    We are doing lots of exercise this summer and I’m excited to get the kiddos in shape! :)

    1. You are right: if you serve only vegetables, they will have no choice! Exercising as a family is so much fun: My kids are always happy to go on a bike ride because they know they will go to the park and play!

  4. kids totally get stressed. we’re working on doing the exercise thing as a family. we want to start exploring more of our state on bikes- we just need to get a hitch for the van! we can’t fit all our bikes in the van anymore!!

    1. That’s a great idea Brett. We have a hitch too but we need to fix it to the car!! Until then we bike around the house, we have so many great bike paths!

    1. Exercising is very important in our family! We try to do it on a regular basis: it can be a walk to the park, a bike ride or even house cleaning!

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