Study: Lower consumption of fast food associated with lower stress levels

A survey published in the journal Nutrients suggested that overweight, low-income mothers of younger children, after participating in a study, ate fewer fast foods and high-fat snacks.

They did so not because the study researchers told them to, but because the lifestyle intervention being evaluated helped them reduce their stress.

The 16-week program aimed to prevent weight gain by promoting stress management, healthy eating and physical activity. The methods for doing this were simple steps embedded in lessons on time management and prioritization, many of which were demonstrated in a series of videos featuring mothers like those participating in the study.

“We used the testimonials of women in the videos and showed their interactions with their families to raise awareness of stressors. After watching the videos, many of the intervention participants said, “This is the first time I realize that I am so stressed.” – because they’ve lived stressful lives, ”said Mei-Wei Chang, lead author of the study and associate professor of nursing at Ohio State University.

“A lot of these women are aware of feeling impatient, having head and neck pain, and trouble sleeping – but they don’t know these are signs of stress,” Chang added.

An analysis of the data from the study showed that the decrease in stress that women perceive after participating in the intervention was the key factor influencing their eventual decrease in consumption of high-fat meals and fast food.

Chang said, “It’s not that these women didn’t want to eat healthier. If you don’t know how to deal with stress when you’re so stressed out, why do you care about what you eat?”

The 338 participants, overweight or obese mothers aged 18 to 39, were recruited under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which serves low-income mothers and children. income until the age of five. Those eligible for the program must have an annual household income not exceeding 185% of the federal poverty line.

Chang said these women are likely to face a number of challenges that could cause them stress: financial hardship, living in dilapidated neighborhoods, frequent moves, unstable romantic relationships, and busy households with young children. . It is also common for this population to maintain 10 or more pounds of pregnancy weight after childbirth and risk lifelong obesity and potential problems for themselves and newborns if they become pregnant again.

During the trial, the 212 randomized participants in the intervention group watched a total of 10 videos in which women like themselves gave unwritten testimonials about healthy eating and food preparation, managing their stress and physical activity. Participants also participated in 10 peer support group teleconferences during the study.

Chang and colleagues previously reported that as a group, women in the study’s intervention arm were more likely to have reduced their fat intake than women in a comparison group who received materials. printed on lifestyle change.

This new analysis showed that the lessons of the intervention alone did not directly affect this regime change.

When researchers assessed the potential role of stress as a mediator, the indirect effect of the intervention – reducing the stress perceived by participants – was associated with less consumption of high-fat foods, including fast food. . A one-point reduction on the stress scale was linked to an almost 7% reduction in the frequency with which women ate foods high in fat.

The intervention aimed to show women examples of how they can adopt a healthier and less stressful lifestyle rather than telling them what to change.

“I learned a lot from these women. Everything should be practical and applicable to everyday life – anytime, anywhere, ”Chang said.

A few examples: comparing a bag of crisps to a bag of apples – crisps might be half the price, but they provide far fewer family snacks. Or by using a family responsibilities chart to assign chores to young children, and encouraging moms to reward children with a hug or individual attention when they follow directions. And take deep breaths to counter the feeling of being overwhelmed.

When it comes to stress management, researchers have focused on advising women to change the way they think and not blame themselves when things go wrong, rather than tackling problem solving. that caused them stress.

“We made them aware of the stressors in their lives, and unfortunately a lot of these issues are not under their control,” Chang said.

“So we teach them how to control their negative emotions – remember this is temporary and you can get through it. And give them the confidence to look to the future, ”Chang concluded.

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This story was posted from an agency feed with no text editing.