Jun 29, 2015 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Plenty of people fight the battle of the bulge, but the struggle is even harder for parents. 

Several recent studies have shown that once kids are added to the mix, certain triggers prompt people to pack on the pounds.

Not getting enough sleep is one trigger. “Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain, and I think, in a nutshell, what people do is stimulate themselves with food all day to stay awake,” says Julie Metos, PhD, a nutritionist at University of Utah Health. Fatigue can also influence your judgment, leaving you more prone to making poor food choices.

Another culprit: eating mindlessly. While feeding their kids throughout the day, parents often nibble. “I do think that parents tend to nosh with their kids,” Metos says. It also doesn’t help that many of the foods we think of as kid-friendly are less healthy, more processed and less filling. 

Stress is another factor. One study from the American Psychological Association found that 43 percent of parents overeat or turn to junk food to cope with stress, compared with 30 percent of adults without kids.

One big reason parents experience stress is the need to juggle childcare, work and the home throughout the day. “I think people are really time-crunched, especially when they have kids,” Metos says.

Metos urges parents to make enough time to exercise and eat properly. When you forgo exercise to shuttle one kid to soccer and the other to dance class, you’re doing yourself a disservice. “You have to put on your oxygen mask first, right?” she says.

“And they’re watching you, too,” she says. “Set a good example as best possible.”

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