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Tough Economy Leads to More Weight Gain for Many Americans


The economic downturn has led to many layoffs -- and time spent at home looking for another job -- all the while trying to remain healthy and keep a positive attitude.

relax in bed

Money troubles and job layoffs are causing many Americans to seek solace in junk food … at the expense of their waistlines and health.

Some people are quickly finding that the sudden excess amounts of time on their hands and down days are leading to overeating and emotional eating. In many cases, people are turning to fatty, sugar-laden foods to ease their worries … and gaining weight in the process.

Research has shown that more than 50 percent of Americans increase their food intake when feeling stressed out. In the past people would lose weight when faced with stressful situations, but the stress of the economy and fear of the unknown are causing people to put on weight.

“As the economy has faltered, people have become more and more anxious, more and more fearful,” said Denise Lamothe, an emotional eating expert and clinical psychologist in Exeter, N.H., in a Yahoo News article. “The more intense feelings become, the more people will turn to sugar, fat and salt, because that’s where they can get some relief.”

Boredom, lots of free time at home and financial woes are three big factors that drive people to overeat.

“While there lots of stressors that people will face throughout their lives, whether it’s the death of a loved one or divorce, financial worries are a huge trigger for overeating,” said Linda Hlivka, co-author of “Stress Eater Diet,” in a Yahoo News article. “Not being able to pay bills, find work or support a family, watching retirement savings shrink. All hit home on a daily basis.”

Other emotional distressors that lead to overeating and weight gain are loneliness, chronic anger, anxiety, frustrations, low self-esteem and relationship problems.

Further, tightening the purse strings during the economic uncertainty means that more people are watching how much they are spending on groceries. Oftentimes this means opting to buy cheaper, unhealthy foods to save a dollar. Fast-food giant McDonalds has reaped great benefits with their dollar menu offerings while sit down restaurants that offer healthier options are taking the backseat.

Emotional and Physical Effects of the Recession

Not only does the recession eliminate jobs and slash company budgets, but it also impacts heavily upon your attitude and physical health.

Stress caused by the recession takes shape and form in a variety of physical and mental ways including:

  • Increase in admission to psychiatric hospitals

  • Increase in depression and stress-related disorders

  • Overeating and switching to cheaper, lower quality food as an alternative

  • Increase in diabetes

  • Elevated blood pressure levels

  • Too much or too little sleep

  • Increase in suicides

The Mood-Food Connection

Emotional eating is defined as the consumption of large quantities of food, particularly junk food, as a response to feelings, not hunger.

Major life-changing events such as loss of a job, death of a family member or loved one, moving and divorce can lead to overeating. Some foods that we turn to for comfort such as chocolate can produce stress-relieving hormones.

The pleasure gained from the simple act of eating also puts off negative feelings and provides a temporary distraction from conflict and worries. Rather than focusing on how you’re going to pay next month’s bills, the pleasure derived from eating temporarily suppresses this stressor. The problem with this is that it is only temporary and then you are faced with the guilt afterward from overeating.

Identifying your emotional trigger is the key to prevention. Being aware of your triggers also gives you the opportunity to plan ahead and engage in more appropriate activities when faced with emotional problems instead of resorting to eating.

Five Main Emotional Triggers to Overeating


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  • Social: Excessive eating around individuals who cause you to feel inadequate or eating bouts triggered by arguing with someone.

  • Emotional: Eating to escape feelings of boredom, stress, fatigue, tension, depression, anger, anxiety or loneliness.
  • Situational: Eating because you’ve become accustomed to doing so at certain activities such as peanuts and hotdogs at a sporting event and popcorn and candy at the movies.
  • Thoughts: Eating as a result of your own negative self-talk centering around unhappiness of your physical appearance or an overall low self-worth.
  • Physiological: Eating in response to physical cues from your body such as eating to get rid of a headache or an increase in hunger due to a missed meal throughout the day.

Stress in any form can lead to weight gain and other physical and emotional health problems. The economic fallout has become a source of stress for many Americans, but health experts are urging us to turn to healthier coping methods. So when faced with a challenging situation you can be kind to and in control of your body and not give in to emotional eating.

How to Recognize Your Triggers

  • Know when you are truly hungry. Determine if you are feeling hungry due to an emotion or physical need. If it’s due to an emotion, allow a few minutes to pass for the craving to subside. If you really are hungry, indulge in a healthy treat such as any of the delicious recipes in Alive in 5: Raw Gourmet Meals in Five Minutes.

In this unique raw-food recipe book acclaimed raw chef Angela Elliott shows you how to whip up mouth-watering lasagna, stuffed mushrooms, broccoli in cheese sauce, apple pie, chocolate shakes, and more -- all in about five minutes, with easy-to-find whole-food ingredients that are good for your brain and your body!

  • Identify your negative eating patterns. Journal what you are eating each day, including how you feel when you are hungry and when you eat.

  • Find comfort in alternate activities other than eating. Instead of reaching for a candy bar or bag of chips, try one of these activities instead:

Top 10 Healthy Alternatives to Emotional Eating

  • Immerse yourself in a good book or magazine

  • Get outside for an invigorating walk or jog

  • Relax by taking a bubble bath

  • Practice guided meditation with the Pure Relaxation CD and deep breathing exercises

  • Call a friend

  • Start a load of laundry or do some gardening

  • Grab a bucket and towels and wash your car

  • Listen or dance to your favorite music

  • Treat yourself to a movie

  • Do something creative like drawing, painting or writing

Another important option is to nip stress in the bud …  before it drives you to overeat and gain weight. To keep economic stress (and all types of stress) from becoming overwhelming, the staff at LOVES Staying Healthy in a Stressful World, the highly praised CD by Dr. Peter Reznik, one of the most respected mind/body integrative therapists of our time. The program will actually help you to embark on a practice for transforming your stress into life-enhancing experiences.

Staying Healthy in a Stressful World

Learn more about Staying Healthy in a Stressful World, the highly praised CD by Dr. Peter Reznik, now!

Combined with the 10 healthy alternatives above, it’s a surefire plan to keep your mind and emotions in a very positive place.

Recommended Reading

In Economic Times Like This, Here is How to RELAX ...and Why You Need To

Sleep Problems on the Rise Due to Economy: How to Get Your Sleep Back

Sources May 31, 2009

Yahoo News June 16, 2009 Emotional Eating and Weight Loss Weight Loss

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