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Expert Q&A

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How can I lose weight when I'm busy and stressed?

Asked by Güera, Frederick, Maryland

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I tend to go through many weight changes especially when I am in school. What is the best way I could maintain or lose weight when I am very stressed and I do not sleep enough due to schoolwork and chores at home and all other activites?

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert Answer:

Hi Guera --

This is an excellent question and brings up an interesting topic -- the effect of lack of sleep on weight. Research has shown that Americans sleep significantly less than we did 30 years ago and sleeping less than seven hours per night can significantly increase your risk of weight gain due to hormonal changes, which can lead to increased appetite, decreased metabolism and impaired ability to metabolize carbohydrates. To prevent weight gain or lose weight, here are three tips that may help.

1. Eat mainly high-quality carbohydrates. Because your body is probably not metabolizing carbohydrates as effectively as it could be, it is important to eat mainly high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to keep blood sugar levels more stable throughout the day. Keeping blood sugar levels stable can help boost your energy levels to tackle your busy schedule and keep appetite under better control.

2. Add protein to meals and snacks. Leaner protein such as low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, chicken, tuna, and eggs can help boost metabolism slightly and help control hunger better than carbohydrates and fat, so try to include some type of protein with most meals and snacks. Be sure not to overdo it; too much of any type of food can cause weight gain.

3. Plan ahead. With your stressful and busy schedule, planning ahead is key to maintaining a healthy diet otherwise you may be forced to resort to less healthy, fast-food or convenience-food options. Try cooking extra on Sunday nights so you can heat and eat healthy meals during the week. Stock the fridge with fresh and frozen veggies so you can quickly whip up a healthy side dish. And pre-portion snack-size servings of nuts (about ¼ cup) so you can throw them in your purse with an apple for a healthy snack.

And don't forget to squeeze in exercise whenever you can to help manage stress, boost metabolism and improve sleep.

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