Deccan Chronicle

Stress and obesity go hand in hand

Deccan Chronicle| Kaniza Garari

Published on: November 26, 2017 | Updated on: November 26, 2017

Continuous workplace stress is linked to obesity and is causing eating disorders in people.

The workplace governs a large part of what one eats and drinks and how much physical activity he/she can opt for.

The workplace governs a large part of what one eats and drinks and how much physical activity he/she can opt for.

Wondering if stress affects weight gain? According to doctors, it does. Work-related stress is leading to increasing obesity levels in the country. In order to cope with tough deadlines and competitive environments, more and more people are resorting to foods like ice creams and chocolates. Though short-term stress leads to loss of appetite, chronic and continuous stress is said to have the opposite effect. It has been found that people opt for food to get comfort when they are nearing deadlines. Most often, they binge on high-calorie foods.

Researchers have found that specific hormones play a major role in these situations. For instance, when one eats carbohydrates, it raises the body’s serotonin levels and makes a person feel good. Serotonin is the body’s feel-good chemical. Meanwhile, chronic stress can cause the release of excess cortisol, a hormone critical in managing fat storage and energy use in the body. Cortisol is known to increase appetite and may encourage cravings for sugary or fatty foods.

Dr Abhishek Katakwar, laparoscopic, robotic, bariatric and metabolic surgeon, says, "Recent studies also suggested that hormone Neuropeptide-Y is released from nerve cells during stress and encourages fat accumulation. A diet high in fat and sugar appears to further promote the release of this hormone. Very often, the carbohydrates that people go for are laden with fat, like muffins, pastries, doughnuts, and cookies, which are easily available at the workplace. When individuals get stressed, they often act in impulsive ways because they do not know how to transform the stress into something productive. For those diagnosed with an eating disorder, these impulses from environmental and social stressors can cause them to not eat enough food or engage in a binge-eating episode. Sometimes, in a high-pressure environment, people opt for foods that lead to unhealthy behaviours and also cause full-blown eating disorders."

Eating disorders are not only binge eating but eating whenever there is time and opting for activities or ventures, which will give you the opportunity to eat. Dr Nandakishore Dukkipati, senior bariatric and metabolic surgeon explains, "We see people in the age group of 20 to 40 years with this disorder and we find their habits are developed in such a manner that they use the opportunity to eat food. If they go to a movie theatre, they eat popcorn, pizza and samosa, despite having a meal at home. From their eating patterns, we find their minds have been tuned to such actions where the options of food are more important. If food is not available, they may skip the place. This shows the change is not only in the body but also in the mind." Many people who come at the clinical level have been evaluated for fat in the abdomen and hip region. Men and women, in these work cultures, are found to suffer from obesity in this region.

Are they not aware of exercise or Diet?

Dr Abhishek K. explains, "According to a new study from Montreal, office workers have become less active over the last three decades and this decreased activity may partly explain the rise in obesity. People eat better and exercise more today than they did in the 1970’s, yet obesity rates continue to rise. Also, night shift work is associated with a 29 per cent increased risk of becoming overweight. The findings, which are published in Obesity Reviews, suggest that modifying working schedules to avoid prolonged exposure to long-term night shift work might help reduce the risk of obesity."

In order to deal with workplace stress, there have to be effective programmes that take a multidisciplinary approach to provide workers with the knowledge and support to eat a healthier diet and be more active. This can include nutrition classes, on-site exercise facilities, and work site or company-wide policies that provide healthier food options and reimburse exercise-related expenses.

The workplace governs a large part of what one eats and drinks and how much physical activity he/she can opt for. One must make use of relaxing techniques like yoga or Tai Chi, muscle relaxation to help relieve stress, and also move into the real world and connect with people rather than spend time on the internet.

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