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Is the Recession Making Us Fat?

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Here's the lowdown on how the economy is making us fat, and what you can do for yourself to fix it.

overweight couple

J.J. Virgin: Ready to hear the latest scary health statistic? A recent Gallup poll shows that the average BMI (body mass index) in the U.S. increased from 25.1 to 26.8, comparing data from the first quarter of last year to the same time period in '09. So what in the world could be causing such a huge jump in only one year?

One conclusion that cannot be ignored is the crazy economic climate over the past 12 months. I'm guessing many of you know at least one depressing story of job or financial loss, or a mortgage nightmare. Heck, I'm guessing the recession has hit your pocketbook, too. So here's the lowdown on how the economy is making us fat, and what you can do for yourself to fix it:

Increased Stress
Let's face it, all of us have stress in our lives. But excessive stress whacks our cortisol levels and increases our ability to store fat around our waists. And then, to top it off, high stress levels raise the set point necessary to burn off the fat! Constant worry also lowers serotonin production, which increases the desire to consume sugar and carbs in the form of comfort foods.

What you can do: Exercise! Studies show that yoga, tai chi, and other calming movements lower stress hormones. High intensity interval training (a.k.a., bursting) also helps the body handle stress better and, in the long run, can have a healing effect on the adrenals.

Sleep
30% of Americans say that they are not sleeping well due to the economy (by the way, I believe that lack of sleep is becoming the number-one health concern in our nation!). Production of hormones ghrelin and leptin are hugely impacted by adequate amounts of sleep. Without proper sleep to regulate these hormones, hunger signals go haywire, causing us to overeat. Lack of sleep directly causes insulin resistance, too, which makes us better at storing fat and, if left unchecked, can also lead to diabetes. Oh yeah, and who feels like exercising after a restless night followed by a low-energy day?

What you can do: Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on getting seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep each night. Turn off the TV and PC a couple hours before bedtime, soak in warm baths with lavender oil, sip a cup of warm chamomile tea at night. These simple steps can work wonders to help you wind down and shut off your brain at night!

Apathy
Gallup studies also reveal that less than half of us are getting fewer than three days of 30 minutes of exercise a week -- and I really wonder how many are getting none at all! The culprit here is lack of motivation. I'm guessing that if your bank account is tanking, it's really tough to gather up the enthusiasm to head to the gym each morning.

What you can do: Enlist the support of a coach or friend! A partner in your efforts can help you pull out of your hole and boost your social time, another proven key to higher well-being. She will hold you accountable, and make sure you are slowly, but surely, making good on your promises. Not only will your overall feelings of apathy subside, you'll get healthy and fit in the process, too!


next: Bras for Those with Implants? Oh Yeah!
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous August 27, 2009, 11:42 AM

lame article

Anonymous November 1, 2009, 4:12 AM

I think she forgot lower quality of food. Nutritious food tends to cost more than lower-quality processed food. When you’re trying to cut the budget, it becomes easier to cut things like fruits and vegetables from the grocery list.

Personally,we went through very tough times this year and most of the year. We always seemed to be just barely paying the electric bill (in winter), dodging eviction, and putting gas in the car so the grocery budget was practically nothing. We were so broke that I ate whatever I could get my hands on which was usually carbohydrates because they are so cheap. I ate ramen noodles for breakfast and for lunch because they cost 15 to 20 cents a pack. My other common meals were things like hot dogs, free samples at the grocery store, and whatever sweet treats my co-workers brought in for the holidays. The only fresh fruits and vegetables I ate were the samples at Harris Teeter grocery store. Needless to say, this type of diet had side effects. The ones I noticed most were that I was sluggish and my hips starting giving out constantly. All of which went away when I could afford to eat better.

My case was a little extreme but the poor tend to make these kind of decisions everyday even before there was a recession. Do I buy strawberries and frozen broccoli with my $5 or do I buy 4 packs of hot dogs and a loaf of bread? Not saying that you can’t eat in a healthy manner on a budget. Just that it takes more thought and sacrifice (like giving up sodas and juice for water).

anonymous November 1, 2009, 8:14 AM

If you are on food stamps, you have enough to eat and that’s usually all you have money for. Right now we are on food stamps, we can’t afford to have a gym membership and I can’t afford a lot of active things like biking, (ours were stolen and outgrown this year)or other active things. But, we can afford to eat. And eat we are doing. I am trying to make sure the kids stay active, and they go out and play on good days, but myself. It’s hard to stay motivated to keep healthy, especially when it is so easy to just eat my troubles away.

Anonymous November 1, 2009, 11:29 AM

I lost my job and have been having trouble finding another job. Between my hectic job finding schedule and lack of adequate funding, I have definitely been eating cheaper, lower quality food than I ever have. I still exercise all the time, but have been noticing the quality of my food has been suffering.

Dave November 1, 2009, 11:35 AM

You don’t need a gym membership to get in shape there are a lot of things you can do with your own body for one. But eating well is a big part of it. Just cut out the soda, and water down what juices you give your kids. Also avoiding fried/fast foods helps considerably.

Asoko Clement November 1, 2009, 1:43 PM

I am interested in it.

mecca November 20, 2009, 7:04 AM

alright I am one of those rare individuels who having grown tired of looking & being treated as if I were a cracked out crystlemeth addicted dope-fiend with an eating disorder is trying 2 GAIN weight! Meanwhile the only thing I am addicted to is SLEEPING INSIDE which requires PAYING RENT with MONEY that otherwise would have been spent on FOOD! which more often then not is unavailable because I don’t have the MONEY & unlike the people in my building who by the way don’t pay rent because they actually are on drugs! I DON’T get food stamps because I DON’T. do drugs & can therefor afford 2 buy my own food. Did I mention I live on the 5th floor & must clime up & down 75 steps (each way) to get in & out of my building? Meanwhile everytime I turn around the government is coming up with some new way to help the “poor” fat people avoid temptation by charging for grocerie bags and implementing a ‘sin’ tax on ‘fatting’ foods GREAT 4 u SUCKS 4 me. So here are a few tricks of the trade 1-give up your driving take public transportation or WALK make sure U use this as your way of getting 2 work u will have to leave extra earlie and as such have less time to eat. 2- only take $3.00 a day to work and no atm, credit or benifit cards! when u get off work find the nearest building with at least 5 floors go from the bottom to the top and back down again. last but not least instead of buying 4 packs of hot dogs and a loaf of bread for $5 (Where do U shop?!) jus take that $5 and buy 1 stalk of celery, a bag of potatos, an onion, some garlic 3 packs of top ramon and some chicken parts. and there u go a low cost healthy low calorie meal. so now that the plight of the ‘poor’ fat person has been solved can we get back to helping the people who actually need it like oh I don’t know the sick? jus something 2 think about.

mecca November 20, 2009, 7:12 AM

alright I am one of those rare individuels who having grown tired of looking & being treated as if I were a cracked out crystlemeth addicted dope-fiend with an eating disorder is trying 2 GAIN weight! Meanwhile the only thing I am addicted to is SLEEPING INSIDE which requires PAYING RENT with MONEY that otherwise would have been spent on FOOD! which more often then not is unavailable because I don’t have the MONEY & unlike the people in my building who by the way don’t pay rent because they actually are on drugs! I DON’T get food stamps because I DON’T. do drugs & can therefor afford 2 buy my own food. Did I mention I live on the 5th floor & must clime up & down 75 steps (each way) to get in & out of my building? Meanwhile everytime I turn around the government is coming up with some new way to help the “poor” fat people avoid temptation by charging for grocerie bags and implementing a ‘sin’ tax on ‘fatting’ foods GREAT 4 u SUCKS 4 me. So here are a few tricks of the trade 1-give up your driving take public transportation or WALK make sure U use this as your way of getting 2 work u will have to leave extra earlie and as such have less time to eat. 2- only take $3.00 a day to work and no atm, credit or benifit cards! when u get off work find the nearest building with at least 5 floors go from the bottom to the top and back down again. last but not least instead of buying 4 packs of hot dogs and a loaf of bread for $5 (Where do U shop?!) jus take that $5 and buy 1 stalk of celery, a bag of potatos, an onion, some garlic 3 packs of top ramon and some chicken parts. and there u go a low cost healthy low calorie meal. so now that the plight of the ‘poor’ fat person has been solved can we get back to helping the people who actually need it like oh I don’t know the sick? jus something 2 think about.


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