Scottish Daily Mail



HAVE you ever noticed that when you’re stressed, you find yourself craving chocolate, crisps, chips or cakes? If so, you’re hardly alone.

Research shows that stress can trigger cravings for calorific ‘comfort foods’ that are high in fat and sugar because it prompts the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which makes us hungrier, craving sweet treats in particular.

Sugary treats activate the brain’s reward system, making you temporaril­y feel calmer and happier. But they ultimately lead to a blood sugar ‘spike’ followed by an inevitable blood sugar ‘crash’, causing us to seek sugary foods once again.

Eating sugary, sweet foods not only affects your mood, but also causes you to gain weight, particular­ly around your stomach.

A 2017 study by scientists at University College London that analysed cortisol levels in hair samples found that chronic stress was associated with higher levels of obesity. The researcher­s also found that people with higher cortisol levels in their hair also tended to have larger waists.

This is significan­t because carrying excess weight around the abdomen is a risk factor for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and premature death.

Interestin­gly, a 2009 study of U.S. adults found that ‘normal-weight’ women with major depression had more than twice the cortisol levels and were carrying twice as much fat around their tummies as those without depression.

This suggests it may be easier to lose weight when you’re not exhibiting symptoms of stress and depression — all the more reason to make happiness a priority!

‘It may seem that happiness should be the reward for hard work, like weight loss or exercise. But if you focus on identifyin­g, nourishing and expressing your happiness now, the science says you’re more likely to succeed in your weight-loss goals,’ says WW nutritioni­st Jess O’Shea.

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