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Something to Stress About: Your Stress Eating Adds 11 Extra Pounds a Year

stress eating

Whether it’s ice cream, fries, or some other comfort food, most of us have that one thing we crave when stress hits. It’s not that we’re eating it all the time, only when we’re feeling frazzled and feel like we “deserve” or “need” it. If we’re eating healthily the rest of the time, what’s the harm in indulging in some stress eating now and then?

The harm, as it turns out, is an average of 11 extra pounds a year. A new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry shows that stress eating alone can lead to weight gain. Eating just one high-fat meal after experiencing one or more stressful events the day before can slow women’s metabolism enough to add more than ten pounds a year.

“The question we were asking is whether stress affects metabolism, and I was so surprised at the magnitude of the effect,” Dr. Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study, told Today, adding that she wasn’t expecting to see such dramatic results.
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How You Feel Affects How You Look: Mood and Weight Inextricably Linked

A number of factors in your life can contribute to your mood. Work, family, romantic relationships, and even the weather all play a part in how you feel. But what about weight loss or weight gain? Does how much you weigh affect how you feel? And does how you feel affect how much you weigh?

happy

Speaking from experience,  during the times that I am at a healthy and fit weight I’m in a happier mood than the times when I am heavier. Part of it has to do with how I feel about my body—better, obviously—but scientists think there’s more to it than that. Much of why you feel better at a healthier weight has to do with what you’re doing to reach those goals.

First off, exercise produces endorphins, so when you’re working out your brain rewards you with these feel-good chemicals. When you eat healthy foods like leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean proteins, you feed your brain nutrients that have been linked to happiness. (Conversely, when you eat trans fats and other bad for you foods your mood suffers.) And then there’s something to the idea of sticking with healthy habits, something that scientists call self-efficacy, which tends to lead to a boost in self-esteem and mood.
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Strength Training and Cardio Effective at Edging Out Stress

happy hiking

By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist

If you’re like the majority of Americans—67 percent of them, to be exact—then you’re stressed out. And your stress may trigger physical symptoms, like fatigue or upset stomach, as it does in 72 percent of Americans, according to an American Psychological Association survey. These symptoms are bad enough, but stress can be even more destructive, causing chronic inflammation, depression, heart disease, and other conditions.

There are many ways to combat stress, including meditation, social support, building your confidence, and coping skills, but exercise is near the top of the list. Exercise primarily refers to aerobic exercise (cardio), but a few studies also indicate that strength training is a good stress-buster as well.

Getting sweaty is exceptionally effective because it attacks stress from so many angles. When you regularly work out, you’re:

  • Likely to have lower levels of substances that spike stress and depression, such as cortisol and other stress hormones, inflammatory compounds and free radicals.
  • Apt to have a tamer cardiovascular response to stress; your heart rate and blood pressure don’t rise as high, and come back down more quickly.
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The 5-Second Trick to Lower Your Stress Levels

Ask your stressed out friends how they deal with feeling overwhelmed and they’ll likely list off the usual suspects: Sleep. Caffeine. Sugar. Alcohol. Exercise. Yoga. Some of these are clearly healthier options than others, but even the easy fixes take time—something that a lot of people who are stressed out tend to have in short supply. But there is a quick fix for the times when you have too much stress and too little energy: The simplest and most effective tool for instant energy, banishing stress, and ridding toxins from the body is breath!

breathe

That’s right. Breathing—the thing we do all day and night long without thinking about it—is responsible for a whole lot more than fuel our body with oxygen. The rate at which we breathe actually helps regulate our heart rate which in turn controls a bunch of other physical aspects. Breathe slow and fast and our body and brain will automatically shift to that fight or flight mode, the one that comes with stress and sends your blood pressure and shoulder tension soaring. Focus on slower, longer, and deeper breaths and you’ll help calm your body and mind, fighting stress in a matter of seconds while also filling your body with energizing oxygen, the lifeblood of a creativity, productivity, focus, and fire for whatever our life demands.

So how can you breathe better?
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Stress is Contagious. Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself

For the most part, we know what causes our own stress: work, family, friends, the usual culprits. But what happens when your stress isn’t caused by a direct influence on your life? Then, unfortunately, you’re suffering from secondhand stress.

stressed

It can happen to anyone. For example, if your close friend is going through a rough situation and shares it with you, you may experience stress symptoms even though nothing has changed in your life. Sadly, this is a real thing. Stress is actually contagious.

Alicia Clark, Psy.D. told Shape Magazine this happens because empathy for others is hard-wired into our system. It’s thought that when others around us feel stress, our brain picks up their cues and mimics them, creating stress in us, even without an actual cause.

This is unfortunate news for those who already suffer from stress. Stress can be damaging to your health, including affecting arteries in such a way that may cause heart attacks and strokes.
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