Stress and the Development of an Overeating Disorder

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


Stress can increase risk of an overeating disorderThere are a lot of causes of weight gain and one of them is emotional eating since you are trying to fulfill your emotional needs. If an individual is stressed out, it is harder to eat in a healthy manner and there is a tendency to compulsive overeating. Typically, stressed out individuals binge eat just to relieve the anxiety that they feel. The moment they get used to this kind of defense mechanism, it eventually becomes automatic and individuals may develop an overeating disorder. These individuals will gain a lot of weight and end up obese.

Take note that there are studies that can prove that there is a connection between weight gain and stress. Situations that lead to stress include job related tasks, strained family relationships, financial matters, anxiety disorders, depression and many more. Evidently, in today’s lifestyle, it causes a lot of individuals to be stressed out. Remember that stress is associated to a number of illnesses such as heart diseases, high blood pressure and increasing the risk of developing cancer. Additionally, latest studies have shown a strong link between weight gain and stress.

Based on studies, it was found out that there was a significant increase in the waist line of women which is linked with various types of stress. A lot of women who are gaining weight are experiencing strained family relationships, financial problems or dealing with difficult jobs. As for men, dealing with problems related to work such as lack of skill discretion and authority results to additional weight gain.

Overall, these studies have connected psychological stress as well as gaining additional pounds. Take note that stress is always a part of life and individuals have different methods in dealing with it. There are also some individuals who are prone to change their eating habits everything they are stressed, which only results to unwanted weight gain. Stress induced weight gain is influenced by an individual’s gender, overall physical structure and eating habits, whether they are already obese or not.

The Science of an Overeating Disorder

The physiological basis for this connection between stress, overeating and weight gain is involved, but worth knowing. When the body experiences stress, multiple stress response circuits working together form the body’s whole NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress ResponseSM system. Classically, the body’s stress response has been considered a neuroendocrine phenomenon, with hormonal imbalances and neuroaffective symptoms predominant.

Breaking the cycle of an overeating disorderHowever, the recognition that metabolic symptoms arise such as weight gain indicates there is involvement beyond the classical neuroendocrine model. In fact, the NEM system that governs the stress response includes metabolic circuits as well as neuroendocrine ones. In particular, two major symptoms of the dysregulation of the metabolic circuit of the NEM response are sugar and carbohydrate cravings leading to increased energy intake, as well as increased sequestration of energy into adipose tissue leading to weight gain and an overeating disorder.

There are stress management techniques that you can use that can help deal with stress induced weight gain and overeating disorder. First, you have to be conscious of the factors as well as signs that triggers stress in your life and ask yourself why you are eating.  You also need to learn to prioritize your activities by doing one task at a time so that you will not be stressed out. In case you are not hungry but tempted to eat, try to look for a distraction.

Avoiding skipping meals since you are only depriving the body of the proper nourishment that it requires as well as forcing you to eat more the next meal. Do not keep comfort food around especially foods that are highly processed. You can even practice some stress reducing exercise such as yoga or tai chi since they not only release physical stress, but even mental stress. If you want a physical activity to engage in, you can try hiking, biking or swimming.  Of course, rest is always important. Always find time to rest and do not stay up too late. If you tend to stay up late most of the time, there is a possibility that you will eat snacks that will not be properly digested. Lastly, you have to drink a lot of water. You might only be thirsty instead of being hungry.


Overeating disorder

DrLam.com
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In the past two months of using Dr. Lam's protocol (a portion of it anyway), I've dropped 15 lbs without a problem. I gave up dairy products and wheat. I still cheat on the wheat every once in awhile, but the weight has stayed off. I know that overconsumption of carbohydrates makes a huge difference for me in the weight gain area. I'm substituting veggies for pasta, rice and bread.




2 Comments

  • Clarice H. says:

    I have all this extra mid-abdominal are weight and now I can see the correlation between when it started and when i started gaining the weight. As my adrenals are improved, this should hopefully start going away, right? What are ways to help to start losing weight?

    • Dr.Lam says:

      As the adrenals improve, the body’s metabolism will improve and an environment more conducive to losing weight will be more available.

      Dr Lam