If you’re trying to lose weight, kick off your diet by relaxing. Stress tinkers with your brain chemistry in ways that make it hard to make healthful food choices and maintain self-control, a new study finds.

Study volunteers who endured a somewhat stressful experience were 24% more likely to choose unhealthful snacks afterward compared with volunteers who hadn’t experienced stress. And researchers think they know why: Brain scans showed that the stressed people had altered neurological connectivity between regions of the brain that process tastiness, make value judgments and plan for long-term goals.

“So many Americans are under chronic stress,” said Stephanie Preston, a behavioral neuroscientist at the University of Michigan who was not involved with the research. “People are working more and more hours, and their vacation time is getting smaller and smaller. They’re also getting rapidly more obese.”

The findings underscore that resolving to eat better without changing your lifestyle probably won’t help, she said.

“Adding ‘I should lose weight’ to your to-do list is going to make people even more stressed, which directly undermines the goal of becoming healthier,” she said.

Read the full article "Scientists scan the brain to see how stress undermines your diet" at Los Angeles Times.