Parents’ stress could make kids fat

By Shayna Brouker • Published: January 25th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s been well established that secondhand smoke can be just as detrimental as lighting up yourself. And you’ve heard that stress can increase the risk for obesity … but did you know your stress can actually have secondhand health effects on others — namely, your children? New research published in Pediatrics shows that tense parents tend to raise more obese children. In fact, according to the study, the more stress parents report, the more likely their offspring are to be overweight or obese.

For one, the drive-through window is like a siren song for stressed-out parents. When the alternative is chopping, dicing, sautéing and steaming after a long day at work, what the study calls “haphazard meal planning” sounds much more appealing, especially when dollars are scarce. The good news is stress did not seem to affect how many fruits and vegetables children ate or how active they were.

Aside from skipping fast food, another solution for the whole family is for parents to strike stress itself and take time to wind down at the end of a long day. It starts with adequate sleep, which can make a dynamic difference — sleep deprivation slows metabolism and erodes willpower to resist poor food choices.

If your little one overhears an argument between you and your spouse, remind them that everyone argues sometime. Be sure to build breaks and downtime into your daily routine, even if it’s just 10 minutes of flipping through a magazine or taking a stroll around the block. Modeling mellow behavior can teach kids to handle life’s little molehills more effectively.

Try and stick to a structured schedule as much as possible and eat dinner together as a family. This habit alone is known to make kids happier and eat healthier.

With a little practice, stress can be downsized — and so can your kids.