We have all had the desire to chow down on French fries or bury our troubles in a soothing tub of ice cream after a particularly stressful day. But the combination of high-stress and high-fat eating may add up to an extra 11 pounds a year for women, reports veteran stress researcher Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

This new research shows a link between stress and how efficiently the metabolism works. Study participants (58 women, average age 53) were questioned about the previous day’s stressors before being served a meal consisting of 930 calories and 60 grams of fat. The research meal consisted of eggs, turkey sausage, biscuits and gravy, and participants had to eat the entire serving.

That may sound like a lot of food, but a Chicken Caesar Salad with a full serving of croutons and Caesar dressing would also add up to about 900 calories and 60 grams of fat, thanks to the creamy Caesar topping.

After the meal, the study participants’ blood sugar, triglycerides, calorie-burn rate and stress hormone levels were assessed. The women who reported experiencing one or more stressful events during the

(Photographer: digitalskillet/Getty Images)

(Photographer: digitalskillet/Getty Images)

Have Fun, You’ll Eat Less

Think of your workout as a welcome break or fun, and you will eat less later, report researchers from Cornell University and the Food Brand Lab. The researchers asked two groups of people to walk two miles. One group was told it was a scenic, nature walk. The other group was told it was exercise. Those who believed they had just exercised ate 35 percent more chocolate pudding at dinner that those who thought they had just participated in a scenic walk. The scientists repeated the study with two new groups and found that the folks who saw the walk as exercise ate 206 more calories in their next meal.

Bottom line: Do anything that you can to make your workouts a blast — play music, dance, workout with friends. You’ll eat less.

previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than the women who were not stressed in the seven hours prior to eating the high-fat meal.

The women who reported a history of depression as well as high stress also had higher triglycerides (the fat that travels through the bloodstream). High triglycerides raise your risk of developing heart disease.

“The double whammy of past depression as well as daily stressors was a really bad combination,” said Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University who is known for her work linking the stress experienced by caregivers to poor health.

The seemingly small difference in calorie-burn rate can also add more than 10 pounds a year to the average woman’s waistline. The stressed women also had higher levels of insulin, which makes the body store more fat.

In other words, it’s not your imagination — pigging out after a high-stress day really does go straight to your hips. “Our data say that when we eat the wrong foods, weight gain becomes more likely because we are burning fewer calories,” Kiecolt-Glaser added.

This new study is just the latest to show that people who live high-stress lives are at a higher risk of being overweight or obese. One option, Kiecolt-Glaser suggests, is to keep healthy foods on hand so you can easily prepare low-fat fare after a tough day.