Obesogenic Moms?

A new article in the journal Child Development reports the more hours a mom works outside of the house, the higher their children’s BMI. What does that really mean?

A new article in the journal Child Development reports the more hours a mom works outside of the house, the higher their children’s BMI. What does that really mean?

Obviously a mom working does not cause a child to become overweight. But let’s reflect on what being a working mother in this society means.

Compared to mothers not employed outside of the home, working mothers are often lacking in the one characteristic that we – adults and children – need to maintain healthy nutritional practices in our country.


Control over time, money, groceries, stress, health. The health and psychology literature point to perceptions of control as being critical to understanding hypertension, diet, exercise, tobacco use – rats start going batty when they don’t have control, and we humans are no different.

What does this mean for kids? It means homes where mealtimes are chaotic. It means having to generate quick options so parents can get out of the door quickly. It means parents who are distracted by the stress of their lives. It means exhaustion – so much so, that putting together a dinner and washing up after it seems impossible.  

And the findings of this study are likely most pronounced for women who are in lower paying jobs, with less control over schedules, housing and finances. That makes it even more difficult to get a decent meal into a child.

We are a cruel country – “You brought those kids into this world – figure it out.” Many of us should walk a mile in the shoes of a low-income working mother – think about how often they have to outsource responsibility of their kids just to maintain an income, to pay the rent, for healthcare, for food, for the stuff of life. To experience the panic and feeling of surrender that comes from leaving kids in settings that may not be optimal. To experience the sheer exhaustion that comes from the drudgery of low-wage jobs. Women who work to SURVIVE. And frankly – I am being unfair here – let’s bring dads into the mix; many of them find themselves in similar situations, but the Child Development article specifically focused on mothers.

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that demonizing mothers who are working to make it right for their kids is NOT the answer. I am a working mother, which I suppose, according to this article, puts me in the evil ranks of a selfish BMI-busting carb-pusher. I have lots of luxury in my career – flexibility and the like – but I work about 80 hours per week. My girls and I eat well, and as often as possible, together; but, I sometimes go in for the quick fixes of fast food and packaged meals.   

We want quick fixes to childhood obesity, just like we want quick adult solutions. Lap-bands and diet pills aren’t going to make adults lose weight, and telling moms to work less and put better meals on the table isn’t going to work either.  

This isn’t about pointing a finger at working mothers. This is about better educational and occupational opportunities for women and girls at all ages, delaying pregnancies until girls have ways to support themselves (that don’t involve reliance on a man), better school lunch programs, better childcare policies.  

All of that will translate into healthier kids, healthier adults, billions of dollars saved, millions of lives improved, lower healthcare premiums for everyone.  

But in our society, the blame game is so much easier than stepping up and making the real changes. 

4 Steps to Shedding Your Pandemic Pounds

Forgive yourself, and start walking toward a healthier you.

For those of you who have put on the Pandemic Pounds or added several new COVID Curves, you are not alone. Alarmingly, the American Psychological Association has recently published that almost half of all adults in their survey now have a larger physique. In fact, 42% of people reported gaining roughly 15 pounds (the average published was surprisingly 29 pounds but that included outliers) over the past year. Interestingly, 20% of adults in this survey lost about 12 pounds (I am surely not in this group). Clearly, there is a relationship between stress and weight change. In addition, one in four adults disclosed an increase in alcohol consumption, and 67% of participants distressingly revealed that they have new sleeping patterns.

This past year has brought about what has been called the 'new normal.' Social isolation and inactivity due to quarantining and remote working have sadly contributed to the decline in many people's mental and physical health, as demonstrated by the widespread changes in people's weight, alcohol consumption, and sleeping patterns. Gym closures, frequent ordering of unhealthy takeout, and increased time at home cooking and devouring comfort foods have had a perceptible impact. In addition, many people have delayed routine medical care and screening tests over fear of contracting Covid-19 during these visits. Unfortunately, the 'new normal' has now placed too many people at risk for serious health consequences, including heart attacks and strokes.

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