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Don't Let Stress, Depression Wreck Your Healthy Eating Habits

Oct. 17, 2005 -- If you've lost excess weight (or want to do so), upgrading your emotional coping skills may help keep those pounds off for good.

That way, you may be less likely to seek comfort from food when you're stressed or depressed.

In a new study, people who were stressed or depressed were more likely to regain weight. They consumed more calories, especially calories from fat.

The finding was presented in Vancouver, Canada, at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity's Annual Scientific Meeting.

Yo-Yo Trap

Many people who lose weight gain it back again. That can create a cycle of losing and gaining weight, sometimes called the "yo-yo" effect.

Why does that happen? The essence of weight gain is simple -- consume more calories than you burn, and you'll gain weight. But why we blow our calorie budgets can be complicated.

Researcher Paula Rhode, PhD, and colleagues studied 69 women who had lost weight on a six-month, doctor-supervised program.

The women were screened at the end of the weight loss program and again nine, 12, and 18 months later. They answered questions about their moods, stress levels, and eating habits.

Stress, Depression, and Weight

Higher stress and depression scores predicted weight regain, the study shows.

"The regain occurred as a result of the women consuming both more calories and a greater percentage of fat in their diets," Rhode tells WebMD.

"This suggests that the women may have been eating more high-fat, high-calorie foods as a way of coping with their stress, and that the stress caused a decline in the healthier eating behaviors they had been engaging in when they initially lost the weight," she continues.

Rhode is an assistant professor in the preventive medicine department at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

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