Stress can send you straight to the ice cream in the freezer or the pizza joint on the way home, but new research has found that the subsequent weight gain is more complex than just packing in extra calories.
What the researchers found
A study at Ohio State found that you actually burn fewer calories when eating under stress than someone who eats the exact same thing but isn’t stressed out. A group of 58 women, average age 53, participated in the study. They were provided with three standardized meals. The test meal provided 930 calories, including 60 grams of fat, and consisted of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy, the caloric equivalent of a fast food meal of a two-patty burger and an order of fries. They were asked to fast for 12 hours before they returned to the Clinical Research Center. They then reported on any stress they had encountered in the past 24 hours.
After the standardized meal, measurements of the women’s metabolic rate (how fast they burned the calories) showed that the participants who reported the most stress burned 104 fewer calories than the others.
Researchersl estimated that the daily effect of this pattern could add up to 11 pounds per year. My take? We’ve long known that stress can trigger binge eating and lead to weight gain, and this study gives us a window into one of the possible mechanisms involved. The biochemical aspects linking stress and metabolism have yet to be worked out, and may eventually provide a target for intervention, but if you want to decrease the impact of stress in your life and on your weight, you should start by getting regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Incorporate meditation and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Breathing exercises, particularly performing the 4-7-8 Breath (in breath to a count of 4, hold for 7 and out for 8) will help bring calmness throughout your body. Practice it at least twice a day, and try it every time you feel anxious or upset.
Stress also has a huge impact on your hormonal balance as well as debilitating your adrenal glands so check whether you can improve things in either of those areas. Progesterone is a natural mood elevator and can help reduce stress and because of its properties as a diuretic it can help with weight loss as it rids the body of excess fluid.