BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – According to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), nearly one out of four adults in Louisiana is considered obese.

In East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish, community leaders such as Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome continue to encourage locals to stay physically active and eat healthy foods.

Broome and her team have been the driving force behind numerous events sponsored by her HealthyBR initiative.

HealthyBR was created to give all of EBR’s citizens access to medical care, nutritious food, as well as information and activities that promote exercise and healthy eating.

These kinds of initiatives also help the many EBR residents who struggle to maintain a healthy weight.

In some cases, a person will try a series of diets and feel healthier for a time. But after losing interest in the diet or finding that it’s too difficult to maintain long-term, they fall back into patterns that make them feel sluggish and contribute to poor health.

According to research in the National Library of Medicine and National Center for Biotechnology Information, stress may play a significant role in unhealthy eating habits and weight gain.

The research indicates that when a person experiences undue stress, their body produces high levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.

And cortisol has a tendency to trigger our desire for “comfort food,” which causes “white adipose tissue to redistribute to the abdominal region, which may ultimately lead to abdominal obesity.”

An article in Very Well Mind adds that when cortisol kicks into high gear, sugar cravings set in. The article describes the process this way, “The downside to consuming so much sugar is that your body tends to store sugar, especially after stressful situations. This energy is stored mainly in the form of abdominal fat, which can be particularly hard to shed. And so the vicious cycle starts: get stressed, release cortisol, gain weight, crave more sugar, eat more sugar, gain more weight.”

The article also points out that even if a person isn’t eating foods that are high in fat and sugar, cortisol slows the metabolism, which makes it difficult to lose weight.

Eat This, Not That! highlights a study published in the journal Obesity, saying, “among a group of 2,500 middle-aged men and women, those who experienced chronic stress were significantly more likely to be overweight or obese than their low-stress counterparts.”

So, how can a person reduce their stress level and implement healthier eating habits?

Experts suggest a few techniques that may help, such as:

Going for a daily walk or run

Exercising boosts endorphin levels, which helps to reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being.

Enjoying a cup of tea

Replace sweet treats with a cup of tea. According to Eat This, Not That!, “The results of a Japanese study suggest that, among a group of 2,774 adults, those who regularly consumed tea had less stress than those who opted for other beverages.” 

Snacking on healthy proteins

When stress triggers hunger cravings, instead of grabbing a bag of chips, experts suggest reaching for a pack of almonds, walnuts, or cashews. Other healthy proteins like salmon or turkey are also great options.

Drinking more water

Very Well Mind says, “It’s easy to confuse thirst for hunger. But confusing these two cravings can lead you to eat more calories than your body needs, prompting weight gain. It’s much easier to identify hunger after you’ve eliminated any mild dehydration. If it’s only been a couple of hours since you’ve eaten and you feel hungry, try drinking some water first. If you still feel hungry, then grab a snack.”

By making just a few tweaks to daily habits, it is possible to reduce stress and make healthy choices.

Of course, should stress become overwhelming, this may be an indication that it’s time to talk things out with a licensed therapist.

Click the button below to visit the Louisiana Professional Counselors Board of Examiners to access a list of counselors in Baton Rouge.