Can’t Lose Any Weight? You May Be Under Too Much Stress

A man working to lose weight

A man working to lose weight | Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to face the facts: The cards are stacked against you. Obesity is an issue that builds upon itself, and researchers are finding that the more fat your body stores, the more likely it is your body will reprogram to stay that way. Scary as it is, fat can even gnaw away at the structures in your brain, making you even more complacent. It’s a dirty, vicious cycle, and one that is not easy to break out of.

On top of all that, if you manage to muster the willpower and courage to hit the gym and change your diet, you may not even see the results you were hoping for. That can lead to fits of panic. If you’re not seeing results, why are you even trying? That panic, or stress, is actually another key problem associated with obesity. And scientists are finding stress is one of the main factors keeping us overweight.

Links between stress and fat metabolism are mostly associated with a specific protein in our bodies, or so say researchers from the University of Florida. This is the same protein link that, at one time, was celebrated as a breakthrough in Diabetes research — though that ultimately didn’t pan out. This time, the protein betatrophin is being singled out as a key factor in the fat metabolism process. The issue is that stress seems to throw our body’s ability to produce betatrophin into flux.

“Chronic stress stimulates production of betatrophin, a protein that then goes on to inhibit an enzyme involved in fat metabolism,” a University of Florida release reads. “Those findings were published this month in the journal BBA Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids.”


tape measure, waist, weight

Source: iStock

Professor Li-Jun Yang, M.D., who was also the lead investigator for the study at the University of Florida College of Medicine’s department of pathology, immunology, and laboratory medicine, summarized the role of stress, metabolism, and betatrophin in short order, saying “betatrophin reduces the body’s ability to break down fat, underscoring a link between chronic stress and weight gain.”

“Stress causes you to accumulate more fat, or at least slows down fat metabolism. This is yet another reason why it’s best to resolve stressful situations and to pursue a balanced life,” she says.

Some of the key findings from Yang’s work with betatrophin include confirmation that it is, in fact, a stress-related protein. According to the press release, “they also discovered why more betatrophin leads to less fat burning: It suppresses adipose triglyceride lipase, an enzyme that breaks down stored fat.” While these aren’t huge or exciting findings in and of themselves, they do give researchers some concrete with which to build foundations for future research.

But if all of that medical and biology jargon is too much, here’s the breakdown: When we’re consistently under a lot of stress, our bodies react by producing more betatrophin. That protein slows down your metabolism, and makes it harder to burn fat. So, if you’re trying to lose weight and not seeing much success, one factor that you’re overlooking may be stress. You might simply want to try to relax to get better results.

a stressed man

A stressed man | Source: iStock

Anxiety is merely another key ingredient in the weight-loss gumbo — the others being sleep, diet, and exercise. Of course, stress is a tricky element to deal with, especially when managing weight-loss goals. For example, if you’re trying to shed pounds and failing, that may lead to higher levels of stress. The increased anxiety can then make it even harder to lose weight, kicking off a perpetual cycle. It may also spur you to turn to comfort foods, or skip workouts as well.

The key is to avoid the cycle in the first place. If you’re already stressed out, finding ways to minimize it before setting out on a weight-loss odyssey is going to be a huge help. We know that stress is deadly, particularly the kind associated with our jobs. You could even suffer a stroke.

What this study tells us is that we need to take stress into account when configuring our goals. If you’re not seeing results, take a step back to analyze your stress levels. You might be on edge without even realizing it.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

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