Our Brain and Our Weight

We are happy to welcome Janis from Elan Family Wellness Centre, with a guest blog post on How our Brain and Stress Affect our Weight.  Janis is a Health Coach with our office and I'm sure you'll enjoy the information!  

The key to health and weight is in your brain, and our mental relationship to food plays a major role in how the body digests what we eat:    "The satiated man and the hungry man do not see the same thing when they look upon a loaf of bread." ~Rumi. 

Marc David, Founder of Psychology of Eating, puts forth the following challenge: “Say…we were examining a plate of pasta, chicken, and salad. A woman wanting to lose weight might see calories and fat. She’d respond favorably to the salad or chicken but would view the pasta with fear. An athlete trying to gain muscle mass might look at the same meal and see protein. She’d focus on the chicken and look past the other foods.”
How these two people metabolize their meal will depend entirely on their thoughts about what is on the plate.  If you feel guilt, fear or shame about what you are eating, the brain will produce stress hormones that inhibit digestion and increase the body’s caloric needs.  It sounds too easy, but last month, reports emerged that scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are studying this very phenomenon: researchers provided 29 women the same calorie-controlled meals over a 12 week period, and weight loss varied from 0-27 lbs.  The project assessed changes in their levels of cortisol, a stress-associated hormone, related to patterns of decision making. (For more, check the March 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine). 
So what can you do today to authentically reduce your stress hormones?  Take note of areas where you are holding a negative mental attitude, either related to food or in other areas of your life.  Also jot down two or three things that would bring you joy today – a cup of coffee, a walk around the block, cleaning off a surface in the storage area, enrolling in a class, hugging your child…whatever it is for you, look for small ways to calm your cortisol. 
Should you wish to do a complimentary 12-point lifestyle assessment, please e-mail me at Janis@mybodycouture.com or contact Elan Family Wellness at (403) 217-5577.


  1. Thanks for a different way to think of food! Gardening is my way to calm myself, so thankfully I can finally work on it!

  2. Very interesting research. No more guilt when eating peanut m&m's at 11pm

  3. Interesting article on the way we look at food and our emotions.

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  5. Josephene, I know stress affects so many areas of one's life and so I'm not too surprised to hear that it also plays a big part in digestion. It was interesting reading about the case study and I'll definitely be more aware of situations that cause me undue stress, especially around mealtime.


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