Living with the stress of poverty and depression may have a significant effect on the eating habits of African-American women, according to a new study conducted by the Rand Corp., a leading organization in the world of medical research.
The study focused on 600, primarily African-American people who were in charge of family food shopping in low-income neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. The neighborhoods were considered “food deserts” — places with limited access to healthy foods such a fresh produce. Participants were also enrolled in food assistance programs.
Lead investigator Karen Florez, Ph.D., an associate social scientist at Rand, and her team found a “strong link between depression, poor nutrition and high body-mass index (BMI),” an indication of being overweight or obese.
Income Only Part of the Puzzle
While it’s inappropriate to apply data from one low-income community to all African-American women, the study results suggest that depression and income-related stress may be significant contributing factors to the high rates of obesity among black women. Given the mounting evidence of a link between life conditions and weight gain, it would be inaccurate to assume that millions of black women are overweight just because they dislike healthy food.
Recent research shows that while obesity among black women decreases as income increases, we still live with the highest rate of obesity in the country — 47 percent among middle-income women. It is therefore reasonable to assume that our ongoing battle with weight exists, in part, because of the unique types of stress we encounter as black women. In addition, we endure rates of depression that are nearly 50 percent higher than white women.
The Pittsburgh study also suggests that living in an area where you cannot easily purchase fresh fruits and vegetable, lean meats and low-fat foods is important.
Mental Health and Weight
The most important lesson from the study is the value of managing negative emotions when trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. A 2014 study found that stress eating could add as much as 11 pounds a year. Other research has shown that depression can lead to obesity and that gaining more weight only increases depression, causing a vicious cycle.
If you find yourself struggling with obesity, but unable to succeed, the best first step may be to consider counseling or therapy first. The network at AfricanAmerican Therapists.com may help you get started. Reducing your stress levels or finding a way to treat depression could just be the boost you need to take off the pounds.