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I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

Sleep, Depression, and Stress Influence Weight Loss

From Medscape Today – a study reported in the Int J Obesity. This study shows clearly that stress, lack of sleep and depression, all decrease the rate of fat loss when on a diet.

The diet used in this study was a reduced calorie one, using Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) principles. It emphasises increased vegetable and fruit consumption: 8 – 12 serves day, low fat dairy, like cottage cheese: 2 -3 serves a day, lean meat, fish, poultry: 1 – 2 serves day, and  limiting fat and sugar. And several serves whole grains. A tendency on this programme is for people to end up eating more protein and vegetables and limit processed food – a good thing. As conventional wisdom dictates however it recommends grains, 6 – 12 serves day. (That alone would cause depression and anxiety in some people). In this study researchers looked the effects of sleep, screen time, depression, and stress on weight loss. Not surprisingly, sleep, depression, and stress all slowed weight loss. Screen time had no effect. I have frequently observed that clients have difficulty losing weight when they are stressed and lack sleep, despite eating correctly. Note: Eating correctly from my point of view is eating an anti-inflammatory diet, one which cuts out toxic foods, grains especially gluten grains, sugar, omega 6 vegetable oils, excess nuts, and food additives. It also one that corrects deficiencies (supplementing if necessary) and eating high nutrient food – vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, and natural animal and sea foods.

Sleep, Depression, and Stress Influence Weight Loss

April 5, 2011 — A new study suggests that sleep, depression, and stress are key components of an interventional weight loss program. The study was published online March 29 in the International Journal of Obesity. The current US obesity epidemic is believed to have a number of contributing elements, including genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, such as disordered sleep patterns. Multiple studies have demonstrated an inverse association between sleep duration and weight gain. To better understand the effects of sleep, screen time, depression, and stress on weight loss success, the researchers, led by Dr. Charles Elder of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Oregon, conducted a 2-phase randomized clinical trial. Phase 1 included a nonrandomized, 6-month behavioral weight loss intervention that included 472 adults with obesity (body mass index, 30 – 50 kg/m2). Phase 2 incorporated weight loss maintenance. The current study focuses on phase 1 results. The phase 1 intervention included 22 group sessions, led by a behavioral counselor, during the course of 26 weeks. Participants were given recommendations to reduce food consumption by 500 calories per day, adopt the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension pattern, and participate in at least 180 minutes of exercise per week. Mean weight loss during phase 1 was 6.3 ± 7.1 kg, and 285 participants (60%) who lost a minimum of 4.5 kg were randomly selected into phase 2. Participants attended an average of 73.1% ± 26.7% of sessions. They filled out 5.1 ± 1.9 daily food records per week and reported 195.1 ± 123.1 minutes of exercise per week. Stress and sleep time were revealed to be important factors in qualifying for phase 2. A 1-point change in the Perceived Stress Scale had an associated odds ratio of 0.966 (increased success associated with less weight loss, 95% confidence interval, 0.937 – 0.995; P = .024). Participants with a quadratic trend in sleep time had an odds ratio of 0.797 (95% confidence interval, 0.649 – 0.978; P = .030). Participants who slept 6 to 7 hours or 7 to 8 hours were more likely to qualify for phase 2 than those with other sleep times. At entry into the program, lower stress was associated with greater ensuing weight loss (slope, 0.132; SE, 0.054; t = 2.42; P = .021). Changes in baseline predictors during the program had significant impacts on success. Reduction in stress between entry and a post weight-loss follow-up visit as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale were associated with improved weight loss (r = 0.159; P = .048). A similar trend was seen in depression as measured by the Personal Health Questionnaire—Depression Subscale (r = 0.223; P = .035). The researchers found no correlation between screen time and weight loss success. Session attendance correlated positively with weight loss success (r = −0.621), as were exercise (r = −0.361) and food records (r = −0.501; all P < .001). “[These] results suggest that clinicians and investigators might consider targeting sleep, depression and stress as part of a behavioral weight loss intervention,” the study authors conclude.

This work was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health. The study authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Int J Obesity. Published online March 29, 2011. Abstract

More reading:

Moderate Sleep and Less Stress May Help With Weight Loss

Sleep and stay slim research suggests

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7 Responses to “Sleep, Depression, and Stress Influence Weight Loss”

  1. Interesting. Would you think that still holds for a Paleo / VLC style of diet?

    April 7, 2011 at 11:57 am Reply
    • Definitely, stress affects weight loss whatever eating plan you are on. However my observation is that people tend to handle stress better and sleep more soundly on a paleo diet with selected supplements like omega 3 (or oily fish) and low omega 6. Also magnesium helps both stress and sleep.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm Reply
  2. Liz Lamirp #

    Great website, thanks Julianne. I’ve been reading for a while and felt compelled to comment on this one.

    After going low-carb/primal almost a year ago and losing about 4kg (I wasn’t particularly overweight to begin with), I have now put it back on. My diet has remained the same, I intermittently fast, and am active. The only change I can think of is that due to a chronic pain condition recurring, I have started sleeping a lot less (4 hours a night if I’m lucky, and not all in one block), and this has coincided with the weight gain.

    April 11, 2011 at 10:50 am Reply
  3. So excited to have found your blog (via weight maven’s blog). This is an important study. Burning the candle at both ends may in fact stop your “end” from getting smaller. I concur with your notions of a healthy diet and it seems unless these seemingly external factors are in sync weight loss can stall.

    April 25, 2011 at 12:14 pm Reply
    • Thanks. I’ve also seen studies linking stress to a greater amount of abdominal fat in women, even slim women.

      May 1, 2011 at 9:50 pm Reply

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