Stress eating could pack on 11 extra pounds a year

Stress eating could pack on 11 extra pounds a year

Researchers sure know how to take the “comfort” out of comfort food.

It seems that experiencing one or more stressful events the day prior to eating just one single high-fat meal — the kind we’re most likely to indulge in when frazzled — slows the body’s metabolism so much that women could potentially experience an 11-pound weight gain over the course of a year, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Participants included 58 healthy women, 38 of whom were breast cancer survivors and 20 of whom were similar in terms of demographics.The average age of participants was 53. During two visits with the research team, participants received either a meal high in saturated fat, the so-called “bad fat,” or a meal high in sunflower oil, a monounsaturated fat that is associated with various health benefits. The meal itself was a whopper: 930 calories with 60 grams of fat — about the same as a double-deck burger and medium fries. The researchers used standardized clinical tools to rank stressors and to assess major depressive disorder.

After the participants indulged, metabolic rate, or how efficient these women were at burning calories and fat, was measured. Blood sugar levels, triglycerides, insulin and the stress hormone cortisol were also assessed.

Results showed that on average study participants who reported one or more stressors, such as arguments with co-workers or spouses, disagreements with friends, trouble with children or work-related pressures, during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women in the seven hours after eating the high-fat meal.

That difference, say researchers, could result in an 11 pound weight gain in one year. And they also experienced less fat oxidation in which so-called large fat molecules are converted into smaller molecules used as fuel.

“The question we were asking is whether stress affects metabolism, and I was so surprised at the magnitude of the effect,” says Dr. Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

It’s no secret that stress makes many of us turn to these high-fat-high-sugar comfort foods. And other studies do show that people who experience stress and other mood disruptions are at higher risk of obesity. The primary reason is overindulgence on high-fat, high-calorie comfort foods.

“We know from other data that we’re more likely to eat the wrong foods when we’re stressed, and our data say that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories,” says Kiecolt-Glaser.

Researchers did find that a history of depression alone did not affect metabolic rate, but depression combined with previous stressors led to a steeper immediate rise in a form of fat called triglycerides. High triglyceride levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

How stress makes us pack on the pounds is indeed a complicated and still poorly understood process. “The relationship between stress and eating is really complex both from a biological view as well as from a psychosocial view, and there is no nice clear pathway that explains everything that is happening,” says Dr. Leslie Heinberg, Director of Behavioral Services for the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. “But what this study does is give us more information on other potential pathways.”

The study is small and there are limitations. “This was a very controlled, one-time thing, and I do think the 11 pounds a year goes beyond the data,” she says, since people may compensate for their indulgences at later meals in the real world. And self-reported stressors can be squishy, despite efforts to control the differences between say the angst of having to give a speech or having a fight with a co-worker. Another complication was the fact that most study participants were breast cancer survivors, which can add even more stress.

Obesity is still at crisis levels both here in the U.S. and globally. It doesn’t help that humans “. . . are biologically set to put on weight and keep on weight and even with diets, exercise or surgery, we are fighting a big biological tide,” says Heinberg.

“What this (study) and other lab studies show is that there’s more to obesity than a lack of willpower, it’s a complex biological problem.”

If you’re looking for a bright side, TODAY Diet and Nutrition Editor Madelyn Fernstrom notes that the impact of stress is a small fraction of the picture: Most weight gain is caused by overeating, plain and simple.

“The good news is that the 100 calories a day extra can be offset by a 30 minute walk,” she says. “This can mean the difference between weight stability and weight gain.”

Source: today

Student Body: School helps bullied 510 pound teen slim down

It was hard not to notice the 510-pound freshman in English class who dwarfed his peers and walked with his head down, sullen and quiet.

His teacher knew that the 14-year-old needed help. What the teacher didn’t know was how Eric Ekis had ballooned to that weight — while mourning the death of his father. Or why this lonely kid didn’t seem to want to change, even though his classmates bullied him. Or that in helping Eric, he might just help the whole school.

On that first day of class at Franklin Community High School in Indiana this past fall, teacher Don Wettrick tried to engage this new student, suggesting they work out together.

“I’d like to but I can’t,” Eric said.

A few days later, Wettrick brought it up again. Again, Eric said no. Then Eric crushed a desk in class. Wettrick tried again, and again heard no.

He realized his methods were failing. He saw that Eric felt terrible — both physically and mentally. His classmates bullied him. One day Eric smelled so bad, Wettrick pulled him aside to talk about his hygiene. Eric said he knew it was a problem.

“I just don’t care,” Eric told him.



“When did you give up?” Wettrick asked.

“When my dad died.”

Eric cried as he explained that his dad died suddenly in 2010 of a brain aneurysm and soon afterward, 11-year-old Eric fell in the shower, shattering his leg. He underwent multiple surgeries and received rods and screws to fix it. At 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, the doctors feared that Eric might grow lopsidedly, so they broke his other leg to slow the growth. The surgeries rendered Eric bedridden, and months of rehab followed. His lack of mobility and grief made it easy for Eric to stress eat.

“After that is when he started putting weight on. Bedridden and upset and depressed,” says Laura Ekis, Eric’s mom. He gained weight so gradually they did not notice until he ballooned. Three years later, he was 6’4” and 510 pounds.

Now everyone noticed, and Wettrick needed a plan. The English teacher also taught an innovations class, which teaches kids to think creatively. One of his students, Kevin Stahl, a senior and star of the swim team, needed a project. Wettrick approached Kevin

Kevin suggested that Eric walk as a way to get used to exercising. First period every day, Eric walks.

“I was sick and tired of being big and bigger than everyone else,” Eric says. “I got lucky it was Kevin. Kevin is just a nice person. … I am glad he is my friend.”

The two also talked to a dietitian about ways Eric could also improve his diet.

“We’re eating healthier at home. We’re baking things and not frying things,” says Laura Ekis. “I want him to be healthy and productive and enjoy everything high school has to offer.”

Eric wasn’t the only kid in school struggling with obesity – in 2011, about 30 percent of Indiana high school students were considered overweight or obese, according to the Indiana State Health Department. When his classmates noticed what he was doing, some joined him and formed a walking group. Another student, Tessa Crawford, lost 25 pounds thanks to walking and food journaling.

Even students who were not overweight supported the efforts.

“People [had] been bullying me. And they all stopped and people are being supportive,” Eric says. “I feel physically better. I feel better emotionally, too.”

While Wettrick feels overjoyed that Eric is becoming healthier, he also likes that this program has reduced bullying.

“This has almost been more of an anti-bullying campaign,” Wettrick says. “If more students wanted to help, as opposed to point and laugh, [it] can lead to great bonds and friendship.”

It’s been a long journey for Eric and will continue to be. The weight is coming off slowly; he’s lost 10 pounds. Like so many others, Eric gained over the holidays. But he is learning how to live a healthier life.

Wettrick left Franklin Community on Monday — he took a position as an innovation teacher at Noblesville High School — but he still talks with Eric and Kevin. Another teacher, Lesleigh Groce, took over the program. The walking group, which includes about a dozen students, walks for 45 minutes a day; twice a week they do some additional exercise such as shooting hoops or yoga.

Eric says that even with the setbacks, he doesn’t get discouraged because he has so much support.

“From the beginning, I wanted this to help other kids just like me — overweight kids that need the help and the support,” he says. “I just like to help others. It is the right thing to do. … It is what my mom taught me.”

Source: Today health