The journey for weight loss isn’t an easy one. After multiple hours clocked in at the gym and a conscious effort to eat healthier, many people find that they just aren’t getting the results they wanted. Well, luckily for us, a new study may have the answers for why your attempt at weight loss has come to such a standstill.
Research published in Molecular Psychiatry indicates that healthy eating offers no benefits if you’re super stressed out. While this may seem like a pretty farfetched connection, there’s actually some serious science behind it.
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First, here’s a bit of background on stress: Stress—specifically a long-term feeling of stress— is known to alter the body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation happens when the body is trying to recover or protect itself, so it commonly occurs during times of sickness or injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation, which lasts longer and has more serious side effects, is caused by long-term illnesses or even severe instances of—you guessed it—stress. So, stressed out individuals often suffer from similar cases of chronic inflammation as those with illnesses like arthritis or heart disease (scary, right?).
Now, does this inflammatory response affect your body while you eat? Short answer: yes. To prove this, scientists in the study first interviewed 58 healthy women to determine their personal stress levels. Then, they were given a meal with either high levels of saturated fat or low levels of saturated fat. Once the women ate the meal, their blood levels were analyzed to measure the four different response molecules that are associated with the body’s immune response.
The results determined that the blood levels of women with low-stress acted as expected—with a higher inflammatory response to the unhealthier meal (which contained higher levels of saturated fat). But here’s where it got interesting: Women with high stress levels had a high inflammatory response to both the healthier meal and the meal high in saturated fat, showing doctors that the women’s bodies were responding to both healthy and unhealthy food with the same inflammatory response.
So, for those who suffer from chronic stress, you’ll still receive that same tired, gross feeling you get after eating fast food, after eating healthier food too. The body’s inflammation will still spike post-meal, upping your chances of illness and essentially erasing the benefits of the healthy meal altogether.
However, don’t take these findings as an excuse to forgo healthy eating. Instead of giving up your balanced diet, work to reduce stress levels through exercise, meditation or other recommendations from your doctor. These findings simply prove that weight loss takes more than just diet and exercise; it takes an overall lifestyle change as well.
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