What’s Stress Got to Do with It?

Dr. Robert Lustig started off the 6th episode of the Skinny on Obesity series with a thought-provoking quote: “We don’t have time to eat.”

In this economic climate, people are working more and, in some cases, earning less. Some people have long commutes to work and others are balancing parenting with work and school. When do we take time to create and enjoy a healthy, beautiful meal for ourselves or our family?

Judging by the 59 new Hardee’s fast food restaurants opening up in Minnesota, the answer is relatively infrequently.

So, if you don’t have time to eat, my question to you is this: what are you making time for? If you don’t have time to properly fuel your body, do you have time to feel ill or suffer more sick days from work?

Now I understand that you may not have time to toast and grind spices for an elaborate yellow curry recipe every night, but good food is not hard to make nor does it take enormous amounts of time. It can be a good way to de-stress or provide a perfect opportunity to educate your family about healthy eating. This is preferable (and has to be less stressful!) than eating in the car on the way home from work.

But what does being stressed and not having time have to do with weight gain?

In episode 6, Dr. Elissa Epel explains that stress turns on the same neural pathways as hunger. Which is why, as Dr. Epel explains, you crave high-calorie food and eat when you are stressed. That is why pulling in to the drive through looks so tempting. You are neurologically programmed to do this. But can we re-program ourselves?

A study in The Journal on Obesity suggests we can. By engaging in weekly mindfulness training (yoga, meditation) for four months, participants were able to lower their stress hormones and halt weight gain. Promising results for individuals lacking time and funds to belong to health clubs. This is also valuable information for personal trainers and health fitness specialists who are looking to reduce their client’s stress levels. They should consider how many of their current clients are under stress. Instead of adding stress to their clients’ lives with intense boot camp or spin classes, some may be better served by a qi gong class, a yoga class or an hour of meditation.

How stressed are you? Take this quiz provided by UCSF.

Think about removing stress from your life, rather than adding to it at the health club. And think about nourishing your body with healthy, slow food so it can properly handle the stress that life throws at you!

Learn more about the Health Fitness Specialist degree programs at Globe University/Minnesota School of Business.