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Stress and Weight Gain



We all experience stress in our lives. But, did you know that stress could be a contributor to weight gain and preventing you from losing weight? Stress causes our bodies to produce increased amounts of stress hormones. These hormones cause a rush of adrenaline that is sometimes referred to as the “Fight or Flight Response.” When the brain receives a signal that the body is under stress, it releases the stress hormones to help the body endure whatever is upon it. It makes one ready for action and endurance. The human body is made to survive.

However, after the adrenaline rush is over, the body continues to make cortisol. This is the hormone that triggers hunger or the “replenish mode.” For our ancestors, this was necessary. They may have gone long periods of time without eating and endured a harsh physical environment without knowing when they would eat again. Our ancestors needed the cortisol due to high levels of physical stress and activity. Often, they burned double the calories they consumed just looking for their food.

We can hardly say that now. However, despite the decline in physical activity, we are under as much stress today as our ancestors. Much of our stress comes in the form of mental and emotional. Even physical stress, such as chronic illness, brings with it an emotional toll.

Cortisol and the “replenish mode” are designed to allow for survival. Cortisol slows our metabolism to conserve energy and resources. This means we hang on to fat stores. This may not have been a problem for our great-great-great grandparents who hunted and gathered their food supply, however, driving to the nearest drive-through or ordering take-out is not such strenuous work. Add a slow metabolism from cortisol and you get added weight gain.

So, how can you start now to decrease your stress and prevent weight gain? Here are some tips:

1. Take your vitamins. Your B-vitamins and magnesium to be exact. The B-vitamins provide energy and nervous system function and magnesium is known to reduce anxiety. Most of us are not getting enough of these vitamins in our diets.
2. Get protein for breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day only if it is protein packed. Experts recommend 35 grams or more to get your metabolism cranked, increase your energy level, and keep you satiated longer.
3. Exercise more. Not only are you burning calories and increasing your metabolism, you are reducing your stress level. When you are on the elliptical, bike, treadmill, or in a yoga pose, you can sweat away the day’s concerns and burn off that adrenaline.
4. Get a good night’s sleep. At least 7-9 hours per night to combat cravings. Lack of sleep makes you hungry.
5. No crash diets or starving. When you drastically restrict a food group or reduce your calorie intake, you slow your metabolism further. This will not help when under stress. Instead, find a well-balanced, high protein, low carb diet plan and drink plenty of water. There are plenty of food options for quick, on-the-go nutrition and protein.
6. Eat mindfully. By eating slowly, you give your body time to realize you are full. Mindful eating makes us more aware of emotional eating and combats the cortisol levels our bodies are producing from stress.
7. Seek help. Often stress in life is more than we can handle alone. Seek out a therapist, a health care professional, a support group, or health coach. Do not be ashamed to ask assistance during a difficult time.




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You May Not Be Getting the Nutrients You Think You Are




Smart dieters often look at a product’s nutrition facts panel to understand how much nutritional value it contains. A label may tell you that a certain brand of cheese has eight grams of protein or, if you rely on tech, your MyFitnessPal may tell you that a cup of strawberries has 220mg of potassium.

By doing this, you’re probably under the assumption you are being a responsible dieter — and in many ways, you are. However, is what you’re seeing on the label what you actually consume when it comes to nutrients? Do they have the expected effect? Some researchers would say no, and have published their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

According to a May 23, 2017, article published by the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen, “The nutritional value of a food should be evaluated on the basis of the foodstuff as a whole, and not as an effect of the individual nutrients.” The conclusion, based on the opinion of an international expert panel of epidemiologists, physicians, food and nutrition scientists, “reshapes our understanding of the importance of nutrients and their interaction.”

“When we eat, we do not consume individual nutrients. We eat the whole food. Either alone or together with other foods in a meal. It therefore seems obvious that we should assess food products in context,” says Tanja Kongerslev Thorning, PhD. What does this mean? Well, although the nutrients on the label are valuable, it may more important to understand how they combine with other food we eat as well as how our bodies digest them to really decide how beneficial or detrimental certain foods are to us.

Researchers used cheese as an example. At face value, cheese has a relatively high content of saturated fat. However, researchers believe that cheese has a lesser effect on blood cholesterol than what you would expect with a food containing that much saturated fat. Another example researchers used were almonds. Almonds contain a high amount of fat, but release less fat than expected while digesting.

Studies and research like this shed light on the possibility that the foods we are eating could be healthier — or worse, less healthy than we originally thought — which could potentially shake up how we look at nutrition as a whole. What’s more, studies like this could lead to more personalized dietary recommendations from health care providers for overweight patients.

“More studies are needed, but ultimately it seems that some areas of nutrition science need to be rethought,” says Professor of Food Chain Nutrition Ian Givens at the University of Reading. “We cannot focus on a nutrient without looking at how it is consumed and what else is eaten at the same time.”


Source: University of Copenhagen, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports


Blog written by Marcus Miller/Robard Corporation

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