Is Food Stress Making You Fat?


Food was always on Nancy Bryan’s mind. Up until her early 20s, she continuously plotted out what, how much and when she could eat in order to manage, work on and fight for the elusive lighter body she hoped was somewhere inside. “That’s how I thought you dealt with weight – you battled it,” says Bryan, a writer living in Los Angeles.

But then, during her senior year of college, she fell in love. She fell so hard that she couldn’t think about anything else – even food. When she stepped on the scale out of curiosity a few weeks later, she’d lost 20 pounds. “I’m standing there thinking, ‘How in the world did this happen?'” Bryan recalls. “That could not have happened in my perceptual universe.”

Now Bryan, author of “Thin is a State of Mind,” which was first published in 1980 but has recently been updated, understands what happened. She hadn’t changed her eating or exercise habits, just what occupied her mind. Rather than feeling perpetually stressed about food, she was on cloud nine. “Being interested in eating vanished from my universe because I was thinking only about this wonderful man,” she says.

What Bryan experienced seems ironic but it’s often true: The more you worry about what you eat, the more weight you may gain (or the less weight you lose). Studies show, for example, that women who report preoccupation with weight and dietary restraint – i.e. trying to limit how much they eat in order to lose or maintain weight – are more likely to gain weight than lose it.

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