Trim the Fat: Can a recession make us heavy?

Maria Hoover, SBJ Features EditorMaria’s weight change for the week: -0.8 of a pound ; total: -10.4 pounds

With everything from a housing slowdown to layoffs to difficulties borrowing money being blamed on the nation’s economic woes, its not too surprising to me that there are some health issues that can reportedly be made worse by the financial pinch.

And while I’m not a medical or financial expert by any means, logic tells me that tight financing can foster unhealthy eating in at least a couple of ways.
The folks at St. John’s Health System are geared up to help people deal with health-related fallout from economic woes, as they might be facing losing their jobs or homes, or watching their savings and stock portfolios take a dive.

Such financial worries can lead to anxiety, according to Kathy Forson, executive director of St. John’s Hospital Behavioral Services.
“Anxiety can be a symptom of depression, especially if it gets to the point of excessive worry and the inability to turn your thoughts off,” Forson says in a news release.

And the onset of depression is where eating habits such as overeating can enter the picture.

Among the symptoms of depression, according to St. John’s, are changes in appetite and decreased energy or fatigue. That can be a difficult combination, particularly among the millions of Americans who are overweight.

It’s no secret that many people – including me, as I’ve battled general depression for years – have a bad habit of seeking comfort in food, oftentimes varieties full of starch and sugar. And when we’re tired (physically or mentally), what are the chances we’re going to make the effort to exercise and burn off those calories?

The good news is that there are treatments for depression, such as medication or therapy. I’ve found, too, that just getting outdoors and taking a brisk walk in the fresh air can energize me, lift my mood and give me a new perspective, regardless of whether it’s finances or something else making me anxious.

On another note, I was thinking about the economy and food choices during a recent stop at the grocery store to stock up on kid-friendly food for the snow days this week. I did a few quick comparisons, which really drove home the fact that it’s a lot cheaper to eat less-healthy foods. For instance, a dinner of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and canned vegetables can provide dinner for a family of five for less than $10, but if fresh meats, fruits and vegetables are to be served, it’s going to cost at least twice that much for a meal. As families across the Ozarks face tighter budgets, I wonder if healthy eating choices will fall by the wayside in favor of trimming grocery bills. That sure isn’t going to help America fight obesity, but like so many things, it comes down to personal choices.
As for me, I’ve found I’m able to justify spending more on good food because I’ve cut the junk – cookies and sugary snack foods – from my regular shopping list in an effort to relegate them to the appropriate place on the food pyramid: special, once-in-a while treats.

Weekly update
While the snow and cold hampered my goal to exercise more for the week, I’m glad I was able to post even a small loss. It’s nowhere near as good as the 4-pound drop from the previous week, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m looking this week for creative ways to cut calories – either in cooking or by filling up more quickly on less. Share your tips in the “Responses” area below.

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