What is stress?
Stress is caused when we react to situations in our internal and external environment. It can cause exhilaration, excitement, distress, or fatigue, and can manifest itself physically, mentally and emotionally. It is not the situations that are stressful; it is our reaction to the situation that causes us stress. Stress is a natural part of life, as it provides a stimulus for action.
These six keys for experiencing more happiness in your life were adapted from an interview with Christophe Andre, a French author, self proclaimed pessimist and expert on happiness.
Do you ever wonder why you can’t just walk by the candy dish at work without helping yourself to a handful or why you can’t stop thinking about the ice cream in your freezer until you break it out and eat half of if right out of the carton? Where is your willpower?
The LIFE study, a large 2-phase weight loss study, has found some interesting connections from the completed phase one. In phase one, study participants take part in counseling, 500 calorie reduction diet based on the DASH diet and 180 min of exercise a week.
60% of the participants were successful in phase one; meaning they lost at least 10 pounds and met the 180 min of weekly exercise requirement. They also attended 73% of their counseling sessions on average. When researchers looked at the differences between the successful group of participants and the unsuccessful group, they came up with 2 areas that differentiated them – stress and sleep.
It is well-known that overweight and obese individuals have higher blood pressure than those who are normal weight. There are many reasons why obesity causes an increase in blood pressure, but now it looks as if some of the drugs designed to combat high blood pressure may actually be contributing to problems with weight. Recent studies have led professionals to believe that blood pressure drugs, specifically older versions of beta-blockers, decrease the body’s ability to burn calories and fat.
Crash dieting does not work! In fact, crash dieting creates changes in your body that make long-term weight management nearly impossible! We LOVE crash dieting and fad diets in this country because for many people they give fast measurable results. But the reality is that although the number on the scale may give the impression that the diet is working, the changes going on inside your body are very unhealthy and will make is extremely hard for you to maintain the weight loss you achieved with the diet once you stop.
When we talk about crash dieting, we’re talking about a diet that restricts calorie intake significantly for a short period of time. A study recently conducted at the University of Pennsylvania tested this kind of diet on mice. The mice were on a three week diet during which they lost an average of 10-15% of their weight. While the mice were on the diet, researchers found that they had higher levels of stress hormones and showed symptoms of depression when they were in stressful situations. Even more interesting (or scary) is that the mice had altered DNA once they finished the diet! The genes that regulate appetite and stress were changed as a result of the calorie-restricted diet. Researchers also found that once the mice were off the calorie-restricted diet and given a high-fat diet, their appetite hormones went crazy and caused binge eating.
This study seems to be telling us that STRESS may be one of the biggest reasons why crash diets are not successful in achieving long term weight loss. In the Optimal Body Balance program we talk about stress a lot and recognize it as one of the 8 areas of weight loss resistance.
Stress can make you fat!
- Stress raises the hormone cortisol — cortisol causes you to break down muscle (not fat!) for energy — sugar from the broken down muscle tissue is continuously dumped into the blood stream — resulting in insulin resistance
- Chronic stress lowers the hormone serotonin and makes you hypoglycemic — resulting in sugar cravings
- Chronic stress lowers the hormone DHEA; DHEA helps your body burn fat (it also has anti-aging and libido stimulating properties)
Stress also causes behavioral problems such as depression (as mentioned before), anger, mood swings, indecisiveness, panic attacks and excessive use of stimulants, intellectual problems such as forgetfullness and lack of concentration, and physical problems such as chronic fatigue, constipation/diarrhea, headaches, heart palpitations, high cholesterol, hypertension, indigestion, immune dysfunction, insomnia, skin rash, sweaty palms and tight muscles.
Next time you consider a crash diet, really think about the long term complications you may be causing your body. Not only will stress induced by crash dieting make it harder to keep off weight in the long run, you’re also creating hormone imbalances, changing your body composition in a negative way by burning up your muscle (not the fat you actually want to get rid of!!!) and maybe even altering your DNA, yikes!