—“If stress burned calories, I would indulge in the sweetest delights.”
The start of the New Year undoubtedly begins with the proclamation of resolutions. The most common of resolutions are our engagement in self-conversations surrounding our own health. For many, this will translate into resolutions of weight loss and the ever burdening weight management.
We are very aware that healthy weight management is imperative for our overall health status and pertinent to reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and more recently Alzheimer’s disease.
The path of least resistance to improve health requires good dietary and lifestyle habits, however our day to day struggle with weight and the yearly resolutions of trying to lose weight remind us that it’s just not that simple.
Can a particular lifestyle factor potentially be an important underlying cause to weight gain?
To date there are numerous studies that detail the impact of chronic stress and the inability to lose weight. This data is applicable to a generalizable population and particularly to business owners and executives where performance pressure and stress are at optimal levels daily.
The impact of stress
We often hear how stress affects the totality of the body but now it seems that it may be the culprit to the impedance of weight loss.
University of Florida study
A recent 2016 study researchers from the University of Florida discovered that chronic stress stimulates production of a particular protein that inhibits fat metabolism in animal experiments. When the body is under significant amount of stress, it produces greater amounts of the protein and the normal fat burning processes slows down markedly.
In other words, stress makes it difficult for the body to break down fat.
University of Rochester Medical Center study
In another relevant study conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center, stressful working conditions are known to impact health behaviors directly and indirectly.
Directly, stress can affect the neuroendocrine system, resulting in abdominal fat or may cause a decrease in sex hormones which often lead to weight gain. Indirectly, stress is linked to the consumption of too many fatty or sugary foods and inactivity.
In fact, researchers have found a link between emotional issues like stress, anxiety and depression, and higher body mass indexes (BMI). Many of us can relate to the idea of overindulging at happy hour after a bad day at the office, for example, or eating a pint of ice cream to help us deal with bad news.
The Departments of Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
The Departments of Psychiatry and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, examined the effects of stress on the meal patterns and food intake of animals exposed to the equivalent of everyday stress on humans.
The results suggest that, not only does stress have an impact on us in the short term, it can cause metabolic changes in the longer term that contribute to obesity.
In layman’s terms
In layman’s terms, stress and its impact on health is connected in the following manner. When we experience stress in response to a stressor, the brain instructs the body to release certain hormones. One of those hormones, cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal glands, plays an important role as to how the body responds to stress.
Cortisol is our “fight or flight” response to a stressor. Under acute stress (stress associated with everyday life), cortisol returns to normal upon completion of the task. However, when we subject ourselves to chronic stress (repeated exposure to situations that lead to the release of stress hormones), cortisol levels build up in the blood and cause wear and tear on the body.
Next- three ways that your mind may assist in “de-stressing” your body
About the author
Cecilia DeMatteo, MS, is currently a freelance writer in the field of health and nutrition with publication in a recurring column, independent articles and book outlines. In the number of years spent in this field, Cecilia’s focus has been primarily on individual lifestyle habits and how they impact human health. Her writing provides readers insight into adapting preventative measures to reduce modifiable risk factors that contribute to the cause of today’s chronic conditions. Through her timely and related articles, her audience acquires a greater knowledge in the latest evidence-based scientific research in overall health. Cecilia DeMatteo, MS, is the former Co-Founder of Enhanced Health Coaching (EHC) in Scarsdale, NY. EHC’s commitment was to provide personalized strategies for both corporate and individuals seeking to optimize cardiovascular health. Cecilia holds a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and a BBA in Finance.Website