Stress may slow your metabolism
For many people, reaching for a handful of chocolate or binge eating after hearing bad news are common coping mechanisms. But this bad habit of stress eating can slow metabolism and lead to serious weight gain– up to 11 pounds in just a year, according to one recent study.
Ohio State University researchers conducted a study of 58 women to see how their metabolism responded to stress. Participants completed a daily inventory of stressful events and ate a 930-calorie meal. After eating, they sat in bed for seven hours while researchers monitored their resting metabolic rate.
After analyzing the women’s inventories, researchers found that women who have at least one stressor in the 24 hours prior to the experiment had a higher rise in insulin levels after eating. High insulin levels contribute to the storage of fat. The stressed women also burned 104 fewer calories than women who had no stressors at all in the seven hours after eating.
“This means that over time, stressors can lead to weight gain,” said Jan Kiecolt-Glasor, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “We know that from other data that we’re more likely to eat the wrong foods when we’re stressed, and our data says that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories.”
How can you break the habit of stress eating and prevent weight gain? Michelle Remkus, a dietician at the Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center advises people to stop and listen to natural cues from your body, which allow you to eat when you really need to eat.
“Hunger is your body’s way to tell your brain it’s time to eat. Many people eat for other reasons besides hunger like boredom, depression, anxiety, or stress,” Remkus says. “You may not even feel hungry, but you catch yourself indulging in a box of cookies.”
To measure just how hungry you are, Remkus recommends looking at a hunger scale which can help you decide if you are truly hungry.
“When you’re feeling stressed and depressed, really keep an eye on what you might be reaching for as your first choice. Keep healthy snacks in the fridge that you can grab easily because those are the times you are less likely to want to prepare something,” said Kiecolt-Glaser. “People can’t easily avoid stress in their lives…but it’s recognizing it and trying to change behavior around it.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.