'The Trump 10': Packing On The Pounds In An Age Of Stressful Politics

Jun 7, 2017
Originally published on June 7, 2017 4:03 pm

Ever heard of the freshman 15? Nowadays, some people who are unhappy with the current political environment are complaining of the "Trump 10."

We first heard this term from actress Jane Krakowski, who recently told late night TV host Stephen Colbert, "Now that I've put on my Trump 10, I've got to work out a little." When Colbert said he hadn't heard of the term, she replied, "You know — like the freshman 15," referring to the weight gain typical during the first year of college.

She's not the only one. Similar complaints of politically induced stress eating have come from megastar Barbra Streisand and director Judd Apatow, who told The New York Times, "I'm trying so hard to have it not turn into 30 pounds."

So is there anything to this? I put the question to Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of the Ohio State University. She studies how stress can influence our bodies — and our eating.

"I think the so-called Trump 10 could indeed be real," she says, "because when people are stressed, they typically do reach for the higher-calorie, higher-sugar foods that are more likely to put on pounds." In a recent study, she found that stress may even override the benefits of a healthy diet.

Now, to be clear, there's no direct evidence pinning weight gain to the president or his policies. And let's face it: It's convenient to blame someone else for our personal struggles.

But a hint that the effect could be real comes from a recent poll. The American Psychological Association surveys Americans about stress levels. The survey asks whether the political climate is stressing them out. More than half of those who responded said yes, the current political climate is a significant source of stress.

Elissa Epel of the University of California, San Francisco, who studies the physiological effects of stress, says those findings are telling — and that the unease seems to cut across party lines. "Regardless of whether people are pro-Trump or anti-Trump, most people do not like what they're seeing on the news," she says.

People who stay super-plugged in — taking in every tweet, every news cycle — are more likely to be stressed out, the poll suggests. "Constant checking of the news on your phone TV — it's a bad idea. It's keeping you in a vigilant state," Epel says.

And that can add to your stress. So maybe this explains a March tweet from Streisand, in which she complained, "Donald Trump is making me gain weight. I start the day with liquids, but after the morning news, I eat pancakes smothered in maple syrup!"

There's nothing wrong with eating this way every once in awhile, but over the long term, chronic stress can pack on the pounds. If you're looking for help in tamping down your nerves, there are lots of foods that may help with mood. Check out these tips.

And as much as we in the news business hesitate to advise this, another tip might be: Step away from the headlines. Epel suggests giving yourself curfews for checking your smartphone. She offers more advice on avoiding stress eating in this video.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There have been all kinds of societal effects because of the current political climate. Here's one you might not have heard of, though. It's causing celebrities and others to gain weight. Here's NPR's Allison Aubrey.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: A few weeks back, Stephen Colbert welcomed a Tony Award-winning actress onto his show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")

STEPHEN COLBERT: Please welcome Jane Krakowski.

AUBREY: Krakowski walked onto the set. She greeted Colbert with a quick kiss on the cheek and got personal.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")

JANE KRAKOWSKI: Now that I've put on my Trump 10, I've got to work out a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

COLBERT: I haven't heard about the Trump 10.

KRAKOWSKI: Yeah, like a freshman 15.

COLBERT: No, I understand that. No, no, I totally have the Trump 10.

KRAKOWSKI: You do, too?

COLBERT: I'm just stress eating...

KRAKOWSKI: See? (Laughter).

COLBERT: ...All the time.

AUBREY: So is there anything to this? I put the question to Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of The Ohio State University. She studies stress.

(LAUGHTER)

JANICE KIECOLT-GLASER: You know, it's easy to laugh at. But in terms of what we know about stress, it really does make sense.

AUBREY: So you think that this Trump 10 phenomenon could be real?

KIECOLT-GLASER: Yes because when people are stressed, they typically do reach for the higher-calorie, higher-sugar foods that are more likely to put on pounds.

AUBREY: Now, to be clear, there is no direct evidence pinning weight gain to the presidents. And let's face it, it's convenient to blame someone else for our personal struggles. But one hint that the effect could be real comes from a recent poll. The American Psychological Association surveys Americans about stress levels, and researcher Elissa Epel of UC San Francisco says the findings are telling.

ELISSA EPEL: The survey does ask whether the political climate is stressing them out.

AUBREY: More than half of those who responded said yes; the current political climate is a source of stress. And Epel says the unease cuts across party lines.

EPEL: Regardless of whether people are pro-Trump or anti-Trump, most people do not like what they're seeing on the news.

AUBREY: People who stay super plugged-in, taking in every tweet, every news cycle, are more likely to be stressed out, the poll suggests.

EPEL: Constant checking of the news on your phone or on TV, it's a bad idea. It's keeping you in a vigilant state.

AUBREY: And that can add to your stress. So maybe this explains a recent tweet from Barbra Streisand. She tweeted, Donald Trump is making me gain weight. I start the day with liquids. But after the morning news, I eat pancakes smothered in maple syrup. Allison Aubrey, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.