Stress management against pounds?

Being stressed can be connected with obesity. A specific stress management can help.


In times of burnouts and depressions, stress is a further important factor for the inner harmony of people. Our “Current Topic”  ‘stress and obesity’ indicates that being stressed can be connected with obesity. But how can you counteract stressful situations? A specific stress management can help.

Unnerving and frustrating moments in everyday’s life can have a strong influence on our health and evoke afflictions. A stressful life and poor handling of stress is clearly associated with overweight. Thus, a specific stress management can help in losing weight.

A Greek research team recently examined the efficacy of an 8-week stress management program on the weight reduction and the eating behaviour of 34 obese women, who wanted to reduce their weight under medical control.[1] The program included, among others, progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). In PMR deep relaxation is being achieved by the deliberate and conscious tensing and relaxing of specific muscle groups Thereby, selected muscle regions are strained and the tension is kept briefly and finally released again. This leads to a general reduction of muscle tension below the normal level. The participant were to learn by PMR how to relax muscles and by doing so the whole person – whenever needed.

Another therapeutic approach in the stress management program was to learn and utilize the so-called abdominal breathing respectively diaphragmatic breathing. In this calm form of breathing you are breathing through the contraction of the diaphragm.  Due to the arising under-inflation between the lung wall and the pleura (pleural space) the lungs fill with air. The exhalation occurs relaxing the diaphragm and the resulting receding of the lungs due to inherent elasticity. The abdominal breathing is the healthiest way of breathing, because only a small percentage of the respiratory muscles are active and so less energy is consumed than in the thoracic breathing.Furthermore, it decreases the blood pressure and the digestion is being promoted by massaging the intestines.

In addition to these two forms of relaxation therapy, there are numerous other stress management methods, such as an optimal time and conflict management or cognitive and self-management therapies. Physical endurance training also promotes stress reduction and contributes to a balanced and relaxed lifestyle. Suitable endurance sports are for example walking, swimming or cycling.

In the end, the Greek researchers noted in their pilot study that the 8-week stress management program had a significant influence on the success of the dieting participants compared to the control group without any stress management program. Thus, the participants with stress management were more reserved afterwards in their eating habits and lost an average of about three kilograms more weight than the study participants without stress management.

Recently, the IFB AdiposityDiseases started to offer prevention courses in stress management that are partly covered by health insurances. Contents are time management, work organization, a problem solving training and various forms of relaxation, such as the featured PMR. In 10 weekly appointments of 90 minutes, the participants will learn individual stress signals and triggers to detect and counteract them.

[1] Christaki et al. Stress managament can facilitate weight loss in Greek overweight and obese women: a pilot study. In: Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietics, 2013. S. 132-139.

Keywords: psyche, obesity treatment