Stress Shown To Slow Metabolic Rate In Women
It’s normal to eat when you’re stressed sometimes. You’ve had a hard day at work so you go to a drive through restaurant for a cheeseburger and fries and try to unwind. Doing that time and time again, you notice your weight begin to creep up. You think to yourself, “Geez, I really need to cut back from all this stress eating or go on a diet.” But what you may not know is that it can be the stress itself that’s throwing off your metabolism and causing you to gain weight. It’s not a simple matter of more calories consumed.
The Ohio State University Study On Stress and Metabolism
Ohio State University (OSU) researchers found that women who were stressed in a 24-hour time period before consuming a high-fat meal similar to that of a two-patty hamburger and french fries — an often go-to meal when people are stressed — burned 104 fewer calories after eating than non-stressed women.
58 women (with an average age of 53) went through the experiment twice. They were given three measured meals the previous day, then fasted for 12 hours before consuming a high-fat meal on the day of the study.
“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,” said Kiecolt-Glaser.”
The Body Burns Its Largest Percentage Of Daily Calories Resting
After the meal, the women reclined for seven hours while their resting metabolic rates — or resting energy expenditure — were measured. Resting energy expenditure accounts for 65 to 70 percent of all calories burned daily in the average person.
Read This Related Article: De-Stress More Healthfully
To objectively measure stress levels before each round of the experiment, researchers asked the women to complete a daily inventory of stressful events (DISE) test. The most common stressful events women reported involved interpersonal problems, such work-related issues, spousal disagreements or difficulty with children.
“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.]”
Analysis Of The DISE Test Results
Researchers found that women who had at least one stressful event in the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than women who reported no stressors. Additionally, women who had reported the stressful events demonstrated higher insulin levels after their meals. This data not only supports other research suggesting that stress and depression may promote insulin resistance, but also offers a mechanism for how that might occur.
Yo-Yo Dieting and Weight Worries Also Cause Stress
The OSU study supports our non-diet approach to healthy weight management. Many women automatically feel stressed when dieting, and we’ve often written about how dieting actually increases the risk for weight gain. Yo-Yo dieting, where a person loses weight, gains it back (often with additional weight), and diets again only to repeat the cycle, is linked to chronic inflammation, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and unhealthy body fat.
Intuitive Eating Can Help You Reduce Stress
Mindful or intuitive eating leads to healthier eating for many weight strugglers. Last week, in fact, another study showed that intuitive eating programs for weight management may be much more effective than traditional weight loss programs.
Read This Related Article: Can Simply Reducing Your Stress Help Reduce Your Waistline?
So, when you find yourself stressed and/or gaining weight, try to avoid restrictive eating because it may only add to your weight problems. Take a step back, breathe or meditate, and look for ways to de-stress healthfully — including practicing mindful eating — to manage your healthy weight.