When we start feeling stressed, many of us will turn to food to calm our nerves. And the food we reach for is normally the type of food we refer to as “comfort food”, which is filled with fat, salt, and sugar. Excessive eating is a symptom of binge eating disorder and can lead to obesity (which in turn can be associated with diseases such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure). But why is it that stress leads to excessive eating? A new study from the University of Stavanger in Norway made the hypothesis that obesity, while in part due to poor diet and lack of exercise may also be due to the stress we deal with in our everyday lives.
Researchers, Brynjar Foss and sports scientist, Sindre M. Dyrstad, have reviewed a number of studies showing that people who have higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, seem to put weight on more easily than people who have lower levels of cortisol. Their hypothesis also suggests that stress and obesity seem to reinforce one another through “positive feedback”. Unfortunately this turns into a vicious cycle for the person who is putting on the weight due to stress because the more stressed out they become, the more weight they may put on. Also, as weight increases, so does stress in the body, leading to this vicious cycle.
So how can you stop this never-ending cycle?
Dieting is the most commonly used method to get back into shape. But Foss warns that dieting could also lead to higher stress levels, which may result in trouble losing weight. But don’t give up! The more you work to identify what is causing your stress, the easier it will be to overcome. So the next time you feel stressed out, take a few deep breathes and try to combat your stress by going for a walk or turning to your favorite hobby as a way to relieve and break the pattern of stress without turning to food. The researchers confirm that addressing your stress may be necessary in order to lose weight.
World Health. The Stress-Obesity Connection. Published February 7, 2012, from http://www.worldhealth.net/news/stress-obesity-connection/