Nurturing family and eating behavior among midlife women: implications for weight gain

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Nurturing family and eating behavior among midlife women: implications for weight gain

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Midlife women (40-60 years) tend to gain weight with age, which increases risk of obesity-related chronic diseases. In their role as food provisioners within the household, women may focus on meeting needs and preferences of family members, and in the process compromise their own dietary needs with implications for long term weight gain. Findings from a previous research study established a set of six situation-based needs for specific eating occasions with respect to factors such as convenience, health, reward and nurturance. The three studies in this dissertation address issues with respect to the need to nurture family through "nurturing family meals" eating occasions. The first study identified and prioritized barriers to healthy meals for women who indicated they commonly experience `nurturing family meals' eating occasions. Midlife women (n=37) participated in focus group discussions that utilized a nominal group technique and identified issues of time and cost as the most important barriers, followed by the need to accommodate family food preferences. In the second study, food and nutrient intakes were compared between groups of women who reported experiencing `nurturing family meal' dinner eating occasions (n=594) vs. dinner eating occasions focused on eating sensibly and caring for themselves (n=298). Data were from a larger study involving mailed survey responses from a national sample of 1,928 women including a one-day food record and meal/snack eating occasion questionnaires. Overall, dietary intakes were healthier when women focused on themselves vs. nurturing family, with lower consumption of refined grains, non low-fat foods (meat, dairy and fats), sugar-sweetened beverages, energy, fat, cholesterol, saturated fat, sucrose and sodium. Intakes for the group focused on nurturing family were higher in protein, calcium and iron compared to the group focused on sensible eating for themselves, indicating that there were negative and positive consequences to experiencing `nurturing family meals' eating occasions. The third study evaluated associations between factors including diet, restraint and weight control practices on weight change in a group of women who participated in an untreated control group (n=104) as part of a larger weight gain prevention study conducted in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area over two years. Based on weight change, women were divided into a loss/maintain group (n=44) or gain group (n=59). All women in both groups reported commonly experiencing `nurturing family meals' eating occasions. The gain group increased overall energy and fat intake over two years compared to the loss/maintain group, which may have contributed to their weight gain. No differences in food group intakes or reported frequency of weight loss/maintenance strategies were observed. Overall the findings from these studies suggest that experiencing `nurturing family meals' eating occasions may contribute to less healthy eating for midlife women. Intervention programs need to address the values, beliefs, motivations and eating behaviors of women in nurturing roles as family food provisioners.



University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2013. Major: Nutrition. Advisor: Marla Reicks, PhD, RD, 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 184 pages, appendices A-D.

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Chopra, Vani. (2013). Nurturing family and eating behavior among midlife women: implications for weight gain. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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