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How you handle stress could cause you to gain 11 pounds this year

Science gives us a new reason not to OD on pints of Ben & Jerry’s right after a breakup.

You might feel like you’re moving a mile a minute while stressed out, but that doesn’t mean your metabolism is operating at the same pace according to a new study published in Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers from Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University asked 58 women to answer questions about the stress they’d undergone the previous day, which included anything and everything from issues at work to trouble with kids, and then served the participants a heavy dinner of biscuits and gravy, eggs and turkey sausage — a whopping 930 calories and 60 grams of fat in total. After the meal, they measured metabolism by recording the women’s levels of inhaled and exhaled oxygen and carbon dioxide, blood sugar, cholesterol, insulin and the cortisol. Upon analyzing the data, researchers found the ladies who said they had been stressed the day before had higher levels of insulin, which slows the body’s ability to burn fat. This resulted in 104 fewer calories burned than the ladies who said they hadn’t experienced stress.

What does that mean for us? Up to 11 pounds of weight gain per year, according to the researchers, because so many of us turn to food as comfort after some of the most stressful or depressing days. And if your metabolism is working slower after stress, and then you consume a high-calorie, high-fat meal, you’ll likely gain even more weight. Not just because you ate a lot of calories, but because your body isn’t burning them off as quickly.

This study is another reason why it’s so important to remember that, no matter what stress you’re going through in your life, food is not the fix. We often self-medicate with an after-work frozen yogurt run, one too many cupcakes or a greasy fast-food cheeseburger — even though we know that isn’t the healthiest way to handle our breakups, bad days and friend dramas. Think about it. When was the last time that piece of pizza was actually an effective way to deal with your problems?

We all have stressors, and rarely see them coming before they pop up, but you can have a healthy plan in place for tackling them before they arise. It’s easier said than done, I know, but next time you’re stressed, resolve to go for a run and get your endorphins pumping. Or take a nap, recharge your body, and give it some extra time to heal. Or meditate, pray or journal to let go of negativity and focus on positive thoughts. Your metabolism, and body in general, will thank you in more ways than one.

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