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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Health & Fitness

Want to lose weight? Manage your stress

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Published:

Scientists are aware that stress can affect your immune system, raise your blood pressure and kill your brain cells. If that isnít enough to catch your attention, consider this: Stress can make you fat.

Stress can not only cause you to eat more, it can have an impact on the way you store your fat. This means that even if you improve your eating habits, your waist size is not likely to diminish unless you learn to cope with your level of daily stress.

The evidence comes from a variety of sources, particularly the Whitehall studies in London by the University College Medical School and the work of Stanford University primatologist Robert Sapolsky.

Stress causes our body to react as if we were running for our life. It triggers our fight or flight response, which forces our blood pressure to spike and many less vital functions to be put on hold. If you're running for your life, your body has fewer resources available to fight disease, restore tissues and distribute your fat evenly.

According to the Whitehall studies, which collected data from thousands of English civil servants, those in lower social and work positions are exposed to higher levels of stress. And those under the most stress are more likely to have fat in their abdomen than those in higher positions of power. Dr. Carol Shively at Wake Forrest University came to similar conclusions in her laboratory.

Our innate response to stress, once designed to save our lives in situations of danger, is now overly stimulated by society's demands. We are no longer constantly threatened by a predator, but we have grown used to filling our moments of calm with apprehension for the future. We spend our idle time solving imaginary problems, which triggers a taxing response on our body. This response, as Sapolsky's research indicates, is making us prone to heart disease and a plethora of other illnesses.

So if your health is not enough of an incentive to make you go out for a walk, exercise, meditate or find a healthy way to cope with stress, consider how good you will look when you relax in your swimsuit this summer.

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