If you suffer from unusual amounts of stress, did you know that it could be leading to weight gain? Here’s how obesity and stress are related — and what you can do about it.
The science on obesity and stress
A study conducted toward the end of 2013 and shared on Science Daily shows an interesting correlation between obesity and stress in juveniles. The study shows that obese children produce more cortisol, the hormone our body creates during stressful situations than children in a healthy weight category.
The study, of course, also admits its approach was purely observational at this time:
“Because this study took an observational approach, more research will determine the cause of this phenomenon,” van den Akker said. “We do not know whether obese children actually experience more psychological stress or if their bodies handle stress hormones differently. Answering these key questions will improve our understanding of childhood obesity and may change the way we treat it.”
There is some evidence that obesity does create issues with stress in adults as well, including some indication that it is a cycle in nature. Obesity causes stress but stress may also lead to obesity.
Stress and overeating
Overeating is often a symptom of stress related emotions. Current studies show that approximately 50% of adults in the United States use food as a method to cope with stressful situations in their lives.
A study published in Nature Medicine also shows an interesting correlation between stress and the release of fat cells within the body. In their study, stressed mice gained weight on a high sugar diet while unstressed mice fed the same food did not. The relationship between stress and obesity is not disputed but it may become a chicken or the egg argument until further studies are conducted.
What you can do
To help reduce stress and weight gain in your life, you may try:
- Changing your diet: Choose healthy alternatives to some of the foods you have been consuming. Create a meal plan each week to stay on track.
- Avoiding pop-culture diet fads: Many of these diets actually increase your body’s cravings for certain non-healthy food. Use a balanced diet approach and change your habits completely.
- Not skipping meals: Skipping meals can lead to unhealthy food choices later in the day. Have a healthy breakfast to start your day right.
- Asking yourself the right questions: Why do you want to eat right now? Is it because you’re truly hungry or could you be stressed or even bored? Looking into the psychological causes can help inform better decisions. If you need more help, reach out to a professional.
Do you have concerns about your stress levels and your weight? To talk to one of our doctors about your health concerns, click here.