Researchers at King’s College London found the answer to that question after analyzing data from more than 300,000 Britons.
They found that those who were under stress were the most likely to lose significant amounts of weight, regardless of the amount they weighed. Those who felt over-triggered, particularly from a stressful job, were even more likely to lose weight. Those whose jobs required them to be in a noisy environment were especially likely to be under stress.
So what does this mean for us? Is having a stressful job the reason why we gain weight? Or, could that actually give us a chance to shed some pounds?
For most people, the answer seems to be that either stress increases weight gain or else it doesn’t. And while obesity is a condition that can have serious effects over time, such as increased incidence of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and depression, it’s not a disease that can be managed and cured by changing one’s eating habits. If nothing else, it’s worth remembering that while some people can feel stressed when they eat or exercise, others can feel healthy eating and exercising.
“Stress does produce changes in body weight with no benefit,” Dr. Peter Gray, who led the study, told me in a phone interview. “The research is clear — the best way to maintain good health and minimize any harmful consequences is to maintain a good eating and fitness lifestyle.”
That means that it matters a lot what you eat and how much, for it’s likely that most of us are not in the habit of eating very healthy foods every day. Instead, most people simply have the tendency to overeat at one point during a day. And that is likely not healthy. So while it’s not clear what causes weight gain during stressful times, it is clear why it happens: People overeat after they make mistakes, or when they feel anxious and unable to focus on the task at hand.
“The evidence is that stress is linked with unhealthy fat gain, but so are other lifestyle changes, so we need to think, ‘Let’s try to control our own behaviour when we’re stressed,’ rather than focusing on controlling what our bodies do.”
So what exactly can we do after they start feeling stressed?
The best thing for most people is to find a way to stop being stressed. It’s not easy, but after you get over the initial shock, it’s likely you aren’t going to look back when it’s over.
For those who don
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