Can stress eating slow your metabolism? Yes!

Did you know that the #1 New Year’s Resolution is “to lose weight”?  I thought you did!  A new study shows that stress during the 24 hours before eating a high-fat meal slows metabolism.  Whoa, that’s not good!

When it comes to either losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight, there are many factors that will make a difference.  At the very foundation is the concept of “calories in, calories out” … which is a catchy way of saying that if we eat more calories than we metabolically burn, we will gain weight.   If we want to lose weight, we need to eat less calories than we burn.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) reflects the number of calories you burn just being alive. Want to know your BMR? Here’s an example, Laura, a 30 year old woman who is 5’5” and weighs 120 lbs will have a BMR of 1,341 calories.  Any level of activity will increase her calories burned.  The amount of calories actually needed is determine by using the Harris Benedict Equation.  If we are sedentary (total couch potatoes), we multiple our BMR by 1.2 to get our daily calorie need.  In our example, that number is 1,609 calories daily for Laura to maintain her current weight.  If Laura adds even light activity, she would burn more calories and her requirement goes up to 1,852!  Moderate exercise brings it up to 2,078!  The more activity, the greater the calorie burn.  The greater the calorie burn, the more food you can eat and not gain weight. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.  If you eat less calories than you burn you will lose weight.

OK, so on to the study.  This was done through Ohio State University’s Clinical Research Center, and included women only.  The purpose was to look at the effect of stress during the 24 hours before eating a high-fat meal and the amount of calories burned during the 6 hours after the meal was eaten.  All the women were given 3 standardized meals the day prior to the test day and were instructed to eat nothing for 12 hours before the “test meal” which was very high in fat (58% of calories from fat).  All women ate the entire meal within 20 minutes.  The study found that those women who reported one or more stressors (like arguments, work-related pressures, trouble with children, etc.) during the 24 hour period before the test meal burned less calories than the “no stressors” women.  The difference was calculated to be 435 calories per day less for the stressed gals.  That equates to almost 11 pounds of weight gain per year!!!  Oh No!!

OK, so, stress slows metabolism, at least in women.  Stress eating is often high-fat.  Gaining weigh just because we are stressed will only add to our stress!!  Oh gosh  …

Here are a few smart tips:
●   Don’t get stressed (yeah right).
●   Don’t be a stress eater (well, at least try).
●   Have low-fat, healthy foods easily available for you to grab when feeling stressed (that’s not hard).
●   Increase your physical activity to burn more calories (that’s a great idea, you just need to find the time and the motivation).

Look, we all know the stress that we are under.  I hope we can keep it manageable, for lots of health reasons.  If we want to achieve or keep a healthy weight, we have to find ways to balance “calories in/calories out”.  I think I’ll grab an organic apple and some low fat cheese and take at 20 minute brisk walk!  Want to join me?

Additional Resources:

The brain-tongue connection in stress eating

Why organic apples

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