Can Stress Keep Me From Losing Weight?
Stress eating tends to be associated with reaching for high-fat comfort foods that everybody knows are unhealthy. But it’s not just the calories consumed during stress eating that negatively impact one’s weight—stress itself could be throwing off metabolism, too.
In new study from The Ohio State University (OSU), researchers found that women who experienced stress in the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women in the time after eating a high-fat meal—which adds up to the equivalent of 11 pounds gained annually.
“We figured stress and depression alter so much in our lives, physiologically, but no one has really looked at metabolism, so it was an interesting opportunity to see how they might affect the metabolic process,” Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at OSU, told FoxNews.com.
For the study, 58 women with an average age of 53 were given three standardized meals the previous day and then were instructed to fast for 12 hours before reporting for their study visit. Then, on the day of the study, the women were fed a meal consisting of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy. The meal, which was 60% fat, was the equivalent of a fast food meal of a loaded two-patty hamburger and French fries. Each of the participants went through with the experiment two times.
Before each round of the experiment, study participants also filled out a daily inventory of stressful events (DISE) test, which objectively measures stress levels. The most reported issues were interpersonal problems, such as trouble with children, work-related pressures or disagreements with spouses.
“These are things that tend to be the most stressful for people,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. “And I think people are still thinking about things and remembering them and still dealing with them the next day.”
During the study, researchers also analyzed the metabolic impact of a high-fat meal made with saturated fat, compared to one made with sunflower oil, which contains monounsaturated fat. Looking at metabolic outcomes and inflammatory consequences, they found little difference between the two types of fat.
Researchers concluded that their findings should offer motivation for people to keep healthful foods nearby at all times.
“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,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. “People can’t easily avoid stress in their lives…but it’s recognizing it and trying to change behavior around it.”