Preventing Unhealthy Caregiver Weight Gain

  • March 24, 2020

Being a caregiver for an ailing spouse or aging parent can be both rewarding and demanding. Family caregivers juggle many daily responsibilities ranging from managing medications to assisting with personal care. It often leaves little time to focus on their own health and well-being.

It should come as no surprise that caregiving and stress go hand-in-hand with unhealthy behaviors. One unhealthy shortcut caregivers often take is opting for quick convenience foods instead of healthy meals that take more time to prepare. Caregivers often struggle with weight gain as a result.

What Causes Caregiver Weight Gain?

Emotional eating can cause a family caregiver overeat or make unhealthy food choices. Cravings for comfort foods, those high in sugar and fat, often increase when a caregiver is stressed and weary from lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep can also slow metabolism, which may increase appetite. The brain has a more difficult time recognizing the body’s “full” signals when sleep deprived. It can result in overeating.

According to a study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, family caregivers are more likely to be obese than their non-caregiving peers. In fact, research shows 27.5% of caregivers meet the clinical definition for obesity compared to 23.6% of people who aren’t caregivers.

4 Ways to Prevent Caregiver Weight Gain

If caregiving is starting to make your pants tighten, these suggestions might help you prevent an unhealthy amount of weight gain:

  1. Adopt a healthier approach to menu planning: Most fast foods and convenience foods are loaded with sodium and sugar. By preparing and freezing healthy foods in advance, you can make meal time quicker and healthier. These healthy, freezer-friendly meals can help you get started. A slow cooker or an Instant Pot can also reduce the fuss of making healthier meals.
  2. Explore healthy, local food options: Another avenue to explore is local restaurants or delivery services with healthy meal choices. Spend an hour or two researching options in your community and create a list. Post it on the refrigerator and keep it in your purse. When you are tired or pressed for time, use it to order something healthy instead of hitting a local fast food drive-through window.
  3. Make quality sleep a priority: People are often surprised to learn that poor sleep and lack of sleep are linked to weight gain. You are more likely to make healthy choices when well-rested. By contrast, failing to get a good night’s sleep can increase appetite, especially for high-carb foods. Creating a healthy bedtime routine may help. A few tips include turning the thermostat down to 68 or 69 degrees, installing room-darkening blinds, and removing light-emitting devices from the room.
  4. Join a caregiver support group: Instead of turning to food when stressed or weary, join a support group. Having someone to talk with, even in an online caregiver forum, is a great way to manage the ups and downs of caring for a senior loved one. Call your local agency on aging to find an in-person support group. If you prefer an online forum, the Family Caregiver Alliance has a variety of groups from which to choose.

Consider an Assisted Living Community

If the demands of family caregiving are becoming too much, consider a short-term respite stay or a move to an assisted living community. With over 270 communities in 30 states, there is likely a Five Star Senior Living Community near you. Call us at (617) 796-8387 to learn more today!


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51 Warning Signs

51 Warning Signs

As you care for your aging loved ones, learn how to spot unusual behaviors ranging from poor nutrition to depression.

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