Parents’ Stress and Children’s Weight

Our society is experiencing a wave of significant stress, with conflicting instructions that are difficult to manage, and a desire to gain more and more time. Of course none of this is particularly beneficial to our health in our everyday life, or to that of our children. Indeed, the stress in which our society lives under is often linked to weight gain. In 2015, 17% of French children between 6 and 17 years old were overweight *.  From the age of 8 **, children can feel stress directly and as a result eat less healthily, but they can also be affected by their parents’ stress.

It has recently been suggested that parental stress increases the risk of childhood obesity *** (based on their Body Mass Index). Highly stressed parents tend to pay little respect to the nutritional needs of their children leading, in general, to a higher consumption of fast food. But interestingly, highly stressed parents tend to show a greater respect to the physical activities recommended to children than those parents who are less stressed.

A second study **** demonstrated the negative effect of the mother’s stress on her daughter. Indeed, a mother suffering from high stress during the first year of her daughter’s life often leaded to her daughter having a higher BMI up to the age of 5 years, whereas this stress had no impact on her boy’s BMI. In this case, it was no longer a question of how the mother perceives stress as the stress was objectively observed, as this factor is extremely subjective (two people subjected to the same stressful event will not perceive the same level of stress). In this analysis, the most stressful factors were mainly traffic (heavy traffic involving noise, bad odours), noisy neighbourhoods, and poor living conditions (exposure to graffiti, vandalism, dirty streets).

Suffering from stress during pregnancy and the first years of a child’s life is perfectly normal; however, in order to have a more serene pregnancy, we recommend regular physical or manual activity as an effective way to properly relax. This allows you to have time on your own and to be more at peace with yourself, decreasing the risk of your children being overweight, especially if a little girl is on her way!

Finally, we can even see that diet is closely linked to stress: when we are stressed, we eat differently: usually not as well, and often in smaller quantities. However, in the case of long-term anxiety we sometimes see the opposite effect, with people increasing their portions to “calm themselves down”. Stress is communicative and can therefore be passed on to the whole family. To avoid a stressful lifestyle leading to a harmful effect on the weight of the whole family, the Maïa Baudelaire team is here to help you choose the right foods at the right times and according to your habits. Our family program not only allows you to eat according to your needs, but also to the nutritional needs of your children! Therefore, gently but surely, everyone reaches a balanced weight without the risk of putting the weight back on post-diet. In addition, your coach will prepare a set of menus and the shopping list for you, relieving you from that boring task.

*Définition et causes du surpoids de l’enfant (2018). Ameli.

**Hill, DC., Moss, RH., & Al (2018). Stress and eating behavior in children and adolescents: systematic review and meta-analysis. Appetite. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.11.109

*** Baskind MJ., Taveras EM., & Al (2019). Parent-perceived stress and its association with children’s weight and obesity-related behaviors. Preventing chronic disease. Doi: 10.5888/pcd16.180368.

**** Leppert, B., Junge KM., Röder S., & Al (2018). Early maternal perceived stress and children’s BMI: longitudinal impact and influencing factors. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6110-5

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