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Weight loss physicians and nutritionists have long believed that stress has a negative effect on weight loss efforts, and now we have even more proof. A study recently published in the Biological Psychiatry journal supports the notion that stress lowers metabolism and leads to weight gain.
It’s just a little comfort food…
We tend to think that “just a little” comfort food won’t hurt us, especially when we’re eating healthy most of the time. But unfortunately, the study found that eating just one fatty meal the day after a stressful event lead to an average weight gain of eleven pounds per year in study participants.
How can one meal do so much damage?
The study followed 60 women over the course of a year. Twice during the study they were given a high-fat meal, similar to the type most people consume after stressful events, to measure their body’s reaction to it. Female participants who reported stressful evens in the 24 hours preceding the meal actually burned 104 fewer calories than those who reported no stress.
This tells us that stress actually alters the way our bodies process food and burn calories. In other words, just when our metabolism is low, we dump comfort foods – fatty calories – into our systems. It’s generally not a great idea to eat high-fat foods at any time, but when we’re feeling stressed is the absolute worst time to do it!
Change your habits…
The take-home lesson here is that yes, stress does impact your metabolism, and during stressful periods is the worst time to consume so-called “comfort foods”. The key to preventing weight gain during stressful times, then, is to alter the ways in which we respond to stress. Rather than reaching for a slice of chocolate cake, work off your frustrations in the gym, go for a walk, or join a yoga class.
But whatever you do, don’t flood your body with calories just when your metabolism is at its weak point. This undermines all of your weight loss efforts and make it that much harder to reach your goals.