RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Trying to drop a few pounds? Relaxation can help, but men and women apparently need to relax in different settings, new research finds. The idea that stress can lead to weight gain isn’t a new one, but the new study found that certain types of stress are associated with even more weight gain in men and women who are already overweight. The research was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. After all, what do many of us do when we feel stressed out? Eat. “Awareness of stress levels could aid in preventing further weight gain,” says Jason Block, MD, professor of population and development studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston. “Many people eat more in response to stress, especially people who already have a weight problem, so awareness of this tendency could protect against this.”
THE DETAILS: Researchers analyzed data from 1,355 U.S. men and women to determine if weight gain was affected by different types of psychosocial stress, including financial stress, work-related stress, a general feeling of constraint in life, and strain in relationships with family and/or a spouse or partner.
Stress-busting tips from Prevention.com
7 Ways to Beat Stress Fat: Why stress makes you gain weight.
Practice Safe Stress: Make healthy stress work for you.
Stick to Your Diet No Matter What: Don't let stress derail your weight loss plan.
“It was interesting to discover that different types of stress are related to weight gain for men and women at higher baseline weight,” says Dr. Block. He and fellow researchers found that men gained more weight when under stress at the workplace or in when dealing with finances, while women gain more weight under stress that arises from relationships with the family and a general sense of constraint in their lives. When facing increasing job-related demands and financial stress, already-overweight or obese women also tend to gain more weight.
WHAT IT MEANS: Stress can come from almost anywhere, but it seems that men are more affected by financial or workplace stress, while for women it’s the family and relationship stress that tends to influence weight gain most. Wherever it comes from, the result is a shockwave of stress hormones that can lead to insomnia, heart and gut problems, headaches, and yes, obesity. With all the extra cortisol floating about your body, you’ll experience mad cravings for sugar and fat, making it hard to stick to a healthy diet. Worse yet, consistently high cortisol levels cause your body to store fat centrally, that is, in your belly.
Exercise, meditation, and mindfulness are great stress busters. Here are some other ways to settle your nerves and eliminate belly fat at the same time: