5 Ways to Beat Stress-Induced Weight Gain

New research shows stress may wreak havoc on your metabolism. Here’s how you can outsmart it.

Stress 2017

I think we can all agree that stress is bad. Excess stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, depression, and now new research shows it may also wreak havoc on metabolism.

We’ve known for some time that stress is connected to weight gain, because a high level of the stress hormone cortisol has been shown to up appetite, drive cravings for “junk” food, and make it oh so much easier to accumulate belly fat. But now, an Ohio State study shows that stress may also result in burning fewer calories—yikes!

In the study, researchers questioned women about stress they had encountered the previous day. The ladies were then fed a meal containing a very generous 930 calories and 60 grams of fat. After eating, scientists measured the women’s’ metabolic rates and took blood samples. In the seven hours after eating the mondo meal, those who had reported being stressed out within the previous 24 hours burned less of the fat they consumed and had higher levels of insulin, a hormone that contributes to fat storage. They also torched 104 fewer calories. That may not sound like much, but it’s enough of a difference to account for a weight gain of almost 11 pounds in one year’s time.

I understand that reports like this can be discouraging, but knowing this information actually offers a huge advantage.  Even if you can’t fix the causes of your stress, you can make small changes to offset the effects.  Here are five daily tweaks to help you best stress-induced weight gain.

Choose your Fats Wisely


If stress causes your body to burn less of the fat you eat (making it more likely to be stored) aim to include some healthy fat in your meal—but avoid “doubling up.” For example, many clients tell me they order a healthy salad for lunch, but the toppings include both olive oil and avocado. Or they might snack on nuts alongside popcorn that’s been cooked in oil. I’m not saying you should eat low-fat meals: fat is important for satiety and it’s one of your body’s key building blocks. But to keep it in balance, choose only one high-fat item per meal. For example, if you want avocado on your salad, dress your greens with balsamic vinegar rather than oil-based vinaigrette.

Adjust your Meal Proportions


If there’s a chance that you’ll burn fewer calories in the hours after eating due to stress, shift your servings a bit to slash calories without having to eat less food. For example, eating one and a half cups of mixed veggies and a half cup of brown rice instead of one cup of each can save you 60-75 calories. Or instead of 1 cup of quinoa, mix half of that with half a cup of spinach to save about 100 calories. I think you see where I’m going with this—trading in a portion of your dense grains, even healthy ones, for low cal, fiber- and water-rich veggies is the easiest way to accomplish a quick calorie savings that doesn’t require sacrificing volume.

Add Metabolic Boosters


Certain foods truly have been shown in research to raise your metabolic rate, and while the effects aren’t astronomical, they may just counter some stress-induced metabolism slumps. One of my favorite natural metabolic boosters is hot peppers. One study from Purdue University tracked 25 adults who consumed either no pepper, their preferred amount (half liked spicy food and half did not), or a standardized amount, which was about a half teaspoon of cayenne for six weeks. Overall both groups burned more calories when they ate spiced-up meals, and those who had been infrequent eaters of fiery food also felt less hungry and experienced fewer cravings for salty, fatty, and sweet treats. Try adding chili pepper or cayenne to steamed or sautéed veggies, or if you can handle a little more heat, garnish your dishes with a sliced jalapeno. Bonus: hot peppers have also been shown to boost immunity and lower cholesterol.

Breathe Before you Eat


We continuously breathe without thinking about it, but recent Spanish research showed that relaxed, controlled breathing can effectively reduce cortisol levels. Before each meal, take a few minutes to sit comfortably in a chair, and spend a few minutes focusing on breathing, slowly and deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth. You may be amazed how quickly this technique can help relieve muscle tension and shift your mindset.

Take a Quick Post-Meal Walk


Whenever possible, try to build in a brisk 15-minute stroll after meals. A recent study from George Washington University found that this habit helped normalize blood sugar levels for up to three hours after eating. Can’t fit in 15 minutes? Go for 10, even five—just breaking a sitting pattern and getting your blood pumping can shift your metabolism. A post-meal walk can also serve as a little “you time” to unwind, clear your head, connect with nature, or catch up with a walking buddy—all of which can help reduce feelings of stress.

Sodium and Weight-Gain

eat-less-salt-sodium
Many people are well aware of the health problems that too much salt can cause, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. But most people are not aware of how excess salt contributes to weight gain.

Sodium, along with other minerals such as calcium, magnesium, chloride, and potassium, is an electrolyte that helps keep your metabolism running. Minerals, such as sodium, ensure that the proper amounts of nutrients and wastes are flowing in and out of your body. Minerals also aid in stabilizing the acid-base (pH) balance in your blood. If you get too much sodium, you create electrolyte imbalances that throw your body off-kilter.

This means your metabolism can’t function at its peak and you can’t burn fat.

Excess salt also negatively affects insulin, a hormone that helps transport sugar out of the blood and into the muscles and tissues for energy. This means that insulin can’ do its job, so sugar builds up in the blood, damaging vessels and making it difficult for fat-burning oxygen to flow to cells and melt fat.

Making matters worse, when people gain weight, especially in the abdominal area, they can become insulin resistant. This means their bodies do not respond well to insulin. In response, the pancreas secretes more insulin, which in time can result in diabetes. With higher insulin levels, not only does your body store more fat, but your kidneys will have a harder time getting rid of salt, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances, high blood pressure, and bloating.

In addition to weight gain, too much sodium can take a toll on your appearance, causing a puffy and tired-looking face. Ever notice that after a meal filled with salty foods (think soy sauce, smoked fish or meat, French fries, or chips) your stomach is distended and you weigh more the next morning? That’s your body’s reaction to eating too much salt. The retention of extra water and fluid leads to major bloating. Even if you’re skinny, you’ll still look bloated and puffy from all the excess fluid.

It’s not all about the calories!! Low caloric foods such as low fat and fat free food items tend to contain more sodium than full fat products. When fat is taken out of a naturally fatty food item the fat is replaced with sodium based preservative, otherwise known as a filler. Sodium based preservatives are found in most household food items, such as: Frozen fruits & vegetables, can foods, fruit juices, salad dressings, sodas and deli meats.

The average American consumes more than 5,000 milligrams of sodium per day. That is equivalent to eating one full teaspoon of table salt per day. The American Heart Association recommends American’s should consume less than 1,500 milligrams, whereas, the Food and Drug Administration recommends around 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for healthy individuals.
Salt is not the same thing as sodium. Salt contains sodium and chloride. However, to simplify, we use the terms “salt” and “sodium” interchangeably since most people need to reduce sodium, and the best way to do it is to cut back on salt.

Diets high in sodium increase the number of fat cells in your body, slow your metabolism, increases insulin resistance and makes you hungrier and thirstier. Salt also makes it more difficult for fat-burning oxygen to break down fat deposits. If you are trying to lose weight, reduce your waist size and increase your vitality all you have to do is follow this one simple rule; never consume more than 500 calories and 500 milligrams of sodium per meal.

For more information about weight-loss and or low sodium meal plans please email info@beautologie.com

Contact Us