Let's face it: Dieting can be stressful. Especially when you begin to change your eating habits, there are lots of things to think about. It can be hard to count calories, track food, read labels, and do it all with a "lifestyle change" instead of "diet" mentality. New research is showing that it's not only mentally stressful, but can also be physically stressful on the body to restrict calories.
The study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, found that people who cut calories have an increased level of the stress hormone cortisol. Participants were divided into 4 groups: those who ate 1,200 calories per day and tracked their food, those who ate a pre-packaged diet of 1,200 calories per day (and didn't have to track food), non-dieters who counted calories and non-dieters who did not count calories.
Participants were given surveys and saliva tests before and after the study to measure their stress levels. According to the researchers, "Participants who cut calories had higher levels of cortisol than before they started the plan and higher levels than non-dieters in the study." So it wasn't tracking food that mattered when it came to stress levels- it was the physical act of cutting calories.
Cortisol has a number of functions in the body. People who are pregnant, depressed, sleep-deprived or very athletic, for example, can have high levels of cortisol. High levels of this hormone can stimulate your appetite, leading to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. It's not as simple as saying cutting calories was the only reason for the increase of cortisol levels in this study, but it's an interesting theory to explore further.
Although you can't completely control your body's reaction to dietary changes, there are some things you can do to make the process a little easier. Consider all of the changes you're making to be permanent lifestyle changes instead of a temporary diet. If you're making changes you don't think you can live with long-term, reconsider them. Also keep in mind that small changes can add up to big results over time. So you don't need to completely overhaul your diet overnight.
It's hard to be patient when we want to see fast results. But losing weight slowly can help you keep it off for good and also make the process as stress-free as possible.
What do you think?
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