As economy goes down, will weight go up?

    Obesity Researchers say that the economic downturn could lead to an increase in obesity.

    Weight experts are worried that the economic downturn may lead to a rise in obesity rates. One reason is that increased anxiety about jobs and finances could drive people to eat more. Maiken Scott reports from WHYY’s Behavioral Health desk.

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    A recent poll by the American Psychological Association states that 81 percent of Northeast American residents are stressed about the economy and money – and registered dietician Althea Zanecosky says many people ease their stress with food:

    Zanecosky: Right now in these troubling times financially, many people are turning to food as a way to make them feel better because from the time we’re very small, we’re given food as a source of comfort.

    Psychologist Dr. Gary Foster heads Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education. He says that people crave pleasurable foods in stressful situations – something sweet, crunchy, or salty – and this behavior becomes habitual over time:

    Foster: The more often you couple this pleasurable food with this stressful event the more they seem absolutely linked. So every time you have a stressful event you then just like Pavlov’s bell go in search of the pleasant food.

    Both Foster and Zanecosky advise people to try to distract themselves when they are stressed, to walk around, or take on a task to avoid reaching for the cookie jar or chips.

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