Stress counteracts diets: Preventing weight sabotage through sport

(Image: Gerd Altmann/ /

For most people, being on a diet is a difficult challenge: Despite the great desire to lose weight, the will to persevere is often considerably smaller. Insufficient physical activity, combined with attacks from a ravenous appetite, put an end to every weight management effort. Failing on a diet is very frustrating; the reasons for the missing success are diverse. But current studies recognise a recurring factor: stress. Continuous mental strain during a stressful daily life blocks certain body functions and can cause heavy periods of overeating. Physical exercise reduces psychological stress and can lead to a successful diet.

The “selfish brain”
Since 2004, the so called selfish-brain research at the University of Lübeck, Germany, is concerned with the question of which brain functions are influenced by stress and how they can be made responsible for failing on a diet. Under direction of stress and brain researcher Prof. Dr. Achim Peters, the international research project developed the theory of the selfish brain, which suppresses the rest of the body. During stressful situations, the brain sabotages all efforts of losing weight in order to cover its own increased needs for glucose, an essential energy supplier to the brain. The process of thinking requires a lot of energy; during moments of mental stress, the brain demands up to 90 percent of the daily needs of glucose. As a result, stressed people feel an enormous desire for carbohydrates and sugar. Being constantly under stress, the body adjusts to the higher food supply and gains weight. To ensure the ongoing energy supply, the brain claims a continuous craving to eat. Succeeding in a diet is now extremely difficult – for most people almost impossible.

Sport against stress
People suffering from stress should find a way to reach inner peace in order to counteract the steady conflict of energy in the body. An important part of that is to identify the daily sources of stress, whether at work or at home, and to neutralise them through a better time management or even through open and conflict-solving discussions. Another proven and healthy method is regular physical exercise. The research group of Dr. Peters found out that sport can attenuate craving for food and positively influence energy metabolism. With more exercise, active people gain a necessary compensation to the daily stress of life. Relaxed jogging or walking stimulates body processes, frees the soul and improves self-esteem. Running regularly leads to both the reduction of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, as well as the release of endorphins, which cause feelings of balance and happiness. Furthermore, active people increase their concentration ability and can mentally process issues faster. When they can cope better with heavy workloads, their whole situation becomes less tense.

Motivation to exercise more
Regular exercise reduces stress and the brain’s constant craving for sugar. This is especially significant in the course of a health-conscious weight management during a diet. But a steady will and high motivation are prerequisites to exercise regularly. Those who are looking for reliable fitness coaching find electronic support. The CaloriScan from Omron Healthcare counts daily steps and precisely calculates the calorie consumption 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thanks to its 3-D sensor technology, the handy calorie counter classifies every kind of movement – while going shopping, sitting at the desk or exercising. Thereby, the CaloriScan helps to coordinate a healthy diet with daily training and supports users on their path to better fitness and mental balance.

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About Omron Healthcare
Committed to improving people’s lives, OMRON Healthcare provides clinically proven, innovative medical equipment for health monitoring and therapy. Our product portfolio includes blood pressure monitors, respiratory therapy devices, electronic fever thermometers and activity monitors as well as body composition monitors and professional medical devices.
OMRON Healthcare Group is headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. OMRON Healthcare Europe B.V. is the healthcare division for Europe, Russia, Middle East and Africa, and provides service to customers in more than 60 countries through a powerful distribution network.

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