Women, Health, and Money: Could Low Income Cause Weight Issues?

Posted: Aug 22 in Health And Wellness, Reading List, Weight loss by

Women in low-income households have to deal with numerous challenges. And it turns out, their weight might be one of them. Experts found that individuals with less income tend to eat more unhealthy foods when they’re stressed. This can sabotage their diets and lead to a plethora of health problems. That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless, however.

The Effects of Income on Health

Someone’s socioeconomic status (SES) has all-encompassing effects on their lives. Low income has been associated with lower levels of education. This makes it increasingly difficult for members of these households to secure better-paying jobs, find work-life balance, and form a positive self-image.

Research has found individuals with lower education also have more sleep issues. Therefore, they experience an increase in memory and decision-making problems. The lack of sleep can also lead to poor immune system health. As a result, low-income household members are more susceptible to illness including an increased risk of heart disease. Given all this, it’s no surprise that low SES individuals also have more issues with stress, weight, and food choices.

Low Income, Stress, and Food Choice

After experiencing a stressful event, women with low socioeconomic status eat more unhealthy foods than their richer counterparts. One experiment exposed women to stress before offering them a variety of snack foods. Women with low SES chose larger amounts of food in general. They showed a clear preference for low-fat, salt-rich foods and sweet foods. Experts believe these results indicate these women eat to deal with the stress.

The motivations for the food choices of low socioeconomic status women are unclear. Some experts believe sweet and high-fat foods may be more rewarding. Neuroscientists found that foods high in fat and sugar affect the brain in a similar way to illicit drugs. However, it could simply be that this group of women are just more familiar with these foods. When they are stressed, they may simply not be interested in trying something new.

Regardless of why they choose unhealthy foods when they’re stressed, there’s no denying the effect this habit can have on the health of women with low-income lifestyles. In the United States, approximately 35% of women are obese. A majority of them are middle-aged individuals with low SES, and this number is only growing.

Stress Eating Solutions

Anyone who wants to stop eating when they’re stressed should first examine their diet. Even if they are trying to lose weight, individuals need to make sure they’re consuming enough calories. If they’re unsure of their diet, a food diary and a visit to a nutritionist can get them on the right path.

Stress eaters should seek alternatives. It can help to find other activities to do with their hands. Some people knit or paint for example. If the urge to eat doesn’t go away, healthy snacks such as fruit or nuts can tide them over. Relaxation strategies like breathing and meditation have also helped some stress eaters avoid snacking. Perhaps most importantly, those who eat for emotional reasons should address the mental motivations behind their eating. Mental health professionals can be a great help.

Middle-aged women from low socioeconomic households are at particular risk of weight gain due to stress eating. This doesn’t mean they’re doomed to live with excess pounds, however. There are plenty of solutions available to help them stop eating and stay healthy.

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