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Stress and Your Weight

There’s been a long-studied connection between anxiety, stress, and our weight.  These days, amid social isolation, self-quarantining, job-related stressors and endless news reports of tragic illnesses due to COVID-19, that connection is being tested more than ever.

One scientific study done in the United States over the course of nine years sought to determine how, exactly, psychological stress affected weight gain in humans.  Anecdotally, many of us have seen this correlation, but this study sought to prove the hypothesis directly.  The researchers studied the correlation of weight gain to a number of psychological stressors, including job-related demands, difficulty paying bills, strain in family relations, lack of skill discretion, lack of decision authority, and others. 

The most interesting finding in this study is that both men and women who already had a high baseline BMI are most likely to gain weight when experiencing stress.

Looking at the stressors themselves, here are the findings: among men with high baseline body mass index, weight gain was associated with increasing levels of psychosocial stress related to job-related demands, lack of decision authority, and difficulty paying bills.

Among women with high baseline body mass index, weight gain was associated with job-related demands, perceived constraints in life, strain in relations with family, and difficulty paying bills.

Covid-19 has created a “new normal” for most (if not all) of us, and that “normalcy” is rife with many of the stressors mentioned above.

Job-related stress is abounding right now.  Many are getting used to working from home.  They’re struggling to “turn off,” instead working many more hours than usual because there’s no clean break marked by a commute.  They’re also much busier than usual, trying to help their companies recover from the roiling economic damage that’s been done in the two short months since COVID-19 struck the United States.   Frontline workers, including nurses, doctors, firefighters, EMT workers, grocery store baggers and clerks, cleaning staff, etc. are at their maximum stress levels, trying to keep the world alive.  And still others – small business owners, retail workers, the list goes on – have been laid off completely. 

Strain in relations with family is also abundant at the moment.  Many of us have been home-bound with family members for the longest time ever, including elder parents, small children, and spouses.  We’re juggling home schooling, at-home date nights, managing the household, and self-care (where we can squeeze it in).

Difficulty paying bills – whether we’re experiencing it now, or worried about it in the future – is also an ever-present stressor right now, given the state of the economy, and the 20 million jobless claims made in the US since the start of the shutdowns.

If you’ve been beating yourself up for struggling with your weight, stop.  Be kind to yourself.  Reflect on the stressors you may be experiencing, and on the collective trauma and stress the country (and, indeed, the world) is experiencing.  As this study shows, stress has a marked impact on weight gain, and the more stressors pile on, the more impactful weight gain becomes.

Here are some things you can do to counteract the stress you’re experiencing:

For even more personalized and holistic support, call or book online to schedule a telemedicine visit with Sound Medical Weight Loss.  You’ll find a dedicated team of experienced weight loss specialists who provide state-of-the-art services, comprehensive solutions, and an affordable, holistic approach to your care.  Our physician-supervised weight loss program includes a whole food plan that’s designed to meet your unique health, nutrition, and weight goals. You’ll get medical supervision, one-on-one nutritional counseling, behavioral coaching, a robust maintenance program, as well as easy-to-access online and mobile App tools that help you stay on track. Your program includes live and online mindfulness classes that address emotional eating, stress management, and habit change.

Sarah Eno Sarah Eno is passionate about supporting healthy lifestyle and mindset change. She graduated in Functional Nutrition in 2016. She has supported hundreds of individuals to a health-promoting lifestyle and believes that everyone has the opportunity to experience health. Sarah is a wife and mom of 3 boys. She loves cross-country skiing, yoga, her Peloton, and does fashion runway part-time.

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