Nav: Home

Inspiring stories from women like themselves helped these moms improve their diet

May 20, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When researchers asked prospective study participants who they would like to see in videos promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors, the answer was unequivocal: They wanted to see themselves - that is, other mothers living in low-income households who were overweight or obese.

The researchers obliged. And the intervention they designed produced the desired results when it came to improving participants' diet. As a group, the women in the study who watched the videos and talked to their peers over 16 weeks were more likely to have reduced their fat consumption than women in a comparison group who were given print materials about lifestyle change.

The participants were women who face stubborn health challenges - highly stressed overweight low-income mothers of young children who, for example, tend to retain 10 or more pounds of pregnancy weight after childbirth and are likely to eat high-fat foods. They are at risk for life-long obesity and potential problems for themselves and new babies if they become pregnant again.

"I asked them during focus groups who should be in the videos, and they said, 'We want to see us. And our children. Do not lie to us and hire professionals, because we'll be able to tell,'" said Mei-Wei Chang, lead author of the study and associate professor of nursing at The Ohio State University.

"They said, 'We want to see them before the change and the struggles they had, and what happened after that.'"

Chang and colleagues identified two factors that led to the intervention's success: The study was designed to appeal to the participants' personal values and instill in these mothers enough confidence to take on the challenge of living a healthier life.

"My experience with this population is that they really want to make a change. Some might perceive that they don't want to. But they do - they just don't know how to," Chang said.

The research is published online in the journal Appetite and will appear in the August print issue.

The two psychosocial factors Chang and colleagues examined in this study are known as autonomous motivation (what's important in a person's life) and self-efficacy (a person's confidence in her ability to carry out a behavior or task). Previous research has shown that poverty can lead to low self-efficacy.

Autonomous motivation differs by population. In this study, the participants told researchers in focus groups before the intervention began that they wanted to be role models for their children. They hoped to be less stressed and happier, and to maintain good family relationships.

Chang recruited participants from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women and children up to age 5. Those eligible for the program must have an annual household income no higher than 185 percent of the federal poverty line.

The mothers were between the ages of 18 and 39 and their body mass index ranged from 25.0 to 39.9 - from the lowest indicator of being overweight to just below the extreme obesity range. The intervention was aimed at preventing weight gain by promoting stress management, healthy eating and physical activity. This study analyzed only the diet-related results.

During the trial, the 212 participants randomized into the intervention group watched a total of 10 videos in which women like them gave testimonials about healthy eating and food preparation, managing their stress and being physically active.

In the videos, the women wore casual clothes and told their stories, unscripted. They demonstrated meal prep with familiar foods and showed that simple, practical steps - like reading food labels - could gradually lead to a healthier lifestyle.

"They talked about a lot of things I didn't know," said Chang, who has worked with women enrolled in WIC for about 20 years. "They spoke their mind about what was important - like how they mentally dealt with changing behavior but not losing weight. And about being afraid to fail."

The participants also dialed in to 10 peer support group teleconferences over the course of the study.

In phone interviews, the researchers asked the mothers about what they were eating, their confidence in sticking to a low-fat diet and why they wanted to eat more healthfully.

Based on those surveys, the researchers determined that, compared to the group reading print materials, the mothers who watched videos and spoke with their peers reported larger increases in autonomous motivation and self-efficacy and a more significant decrease in fat intake after the 16-week intervention.

"Essentially, they said, 'If she could do it, I could do it.' That's why we used peers to develop the intervention," Chang said.

The researchers are still analyzing data related to physical activity results, and have found that the intervention's emphasis on coping self-efficacy helped reduce participants' stress. The videos are now part of WIC's continuing education series for mothers.
-end-
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Co-authors included Alai Tan and Duane Wegener from Ohio State and Jiying Ling and Lorraine Robbins from Michigan State University.

Contact: Mei-Wei Chang, Chang.1572@osu.edu; 614-247-7211

Written by Emily Caldwell, Caldwell.151@osu.edu; 614-292-8152

Ohio State University

Related Stress Articles:

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.
Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.
How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS
How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.
Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.
Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.
Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.
Maternal stress at conception linked to children's stress response at age 11
A new study published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease finds that mothers' stress levels at the moment they conceive their children are linked to the way children respond to life challenges at age 11.
More Stress News and Stress Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.