A good number of studies have found that too much stress will lead to weight gain. Stress has been existing for a long time, in our ancestors wearing animal skins and carrying hunting spears, whenever they encounter a fight or flight situation. It will lead to the release of numerous hormones in reply to such situations.
Although the stressors faced nowadays come more in the form of hefty credit card bills and mishaps at work rather than a giant mammoth running straight at you, our body reacts the same way as for the other. More than anything, stress can also prevent any continuous weight loss.
How the Body Reacts to stress
Stress will lead to the release of hormones adrenalin, cortisol and the corticotrophin releasing hormone or CRH; all of them are released to provide energy to deal with any emergencies. Commonly adrenalin and CRH can reduce the appetite but the effects are short lived. However cortisol has lingering effects and can induce the body to acquire more food even when the stressor is no longer present.
Even though the situations that cause us stress nowadays don’t involve much physical activity, the cortisol that is released tells the body to eat up all the same. The stress is then relieved by eating. That may be beneficial for the ancestors, but not for the present human, who is keener on losing weight.
Stress usually causes people to consume food rich in carbohydrates such as sugars. As you intake sugar the body releases an equivalent amount of insulin. The function of insulin is to store the calories from sugar as fat in our bodies. So the excess insulin will lead to low sugar level in our blood leading to a crash, by which time the body will ask for more sugar, and so it continues.
At first you may be doing this subconsciously, but soon you will be aware of the conscious thought of turning to food every time you get stressed. In order to break from the habit you can follow these six things:
- Eat Well – Eat six meals a day containing foods low in sugar and high in fiber. Eg: whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meat.
- Exercise – Exercise will keep a check on your cortisol levels, while also burning the calories.
- Sleep Well – Lack of sleep will lead to increase in cortisol levels.
- Relaxation – An activity that is calming and relaxing will fight off stress on a biological level
- Do not take alcohol or caffeine – Besides interfering with sleep, it can also increase levels of cortisol
- Intake Multi-Vitamins – Stress can lead to the depletion of important vitamins such as vitamin B and C. Make sure you replenish them.
It is impossible to eliminate stress altogether from your life. However you can control your body’s response to them. Make use of the information provided in this article to control stress and avoid the related weight gain.