In order to stop stress-induced weight gain, you need to understand the process of how it occurs.We throw around the word “stress” in various situations. Stress is a blanket term people use to describe physical or emotional extremes, which can be both positive and negative. When your body experiences stress, your adrenal glands (located above each kidney) spring into action, releasing hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that plays a critical role in weight gain.
Cortisol helps your body become even more effective at producing glucose, which is designed to quickly increase the body’s energy in times of stress. In a fight-or-flight stressful situation, you’ll need quick energy to fight or run away, if need be. Glucose (blood sugar) provides that energy. It’s not the fight-or-flight that causes weight problems because the stressful event is quickly resolved. The cortisol is reabsorbed into our systems, aided by a pounding heart.
It’s being in a constant state of stress that leads to an excess of cortisol production. This happens when you aren’t completely relaxing, you’re not getting enough sleep and you never feel peaceful. Excess cortisol tells your body to produce excess glucose, which is then stored as fat, particularly abdominal fat. Other side effects of excess cortisol include, but are not limited to: anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, sleep problems, weight gain, abdominal obesity, memory impairment and heart disease. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, discuss a plan of action with your doctor.
The following events can raise your cortisol levels:
- Too much exercise
- A bad night’s sleep
- Arguing with your spouse or co-worker
How do you lower excess cortisol? Is it even possible? Yes, it is!
Exercise» Start by getting regular exercise, even it’s a simple daily brisk walk. Breaking a light sweat is a great indication that you’re working hard enough.
Healthy Eating» Consume more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Listen to how your body feels after a meal. If you feel overly full or bloated, that’s a good indication that your meal didn’t agree with you. Stay away from foods that leave you feeling fatigued after eating.
Sleep» Research shows that sleeping four hours or less per night makes you 73% more likely to be obese than sleeping 7-9 hours per night. Turn off your phone and cease the use of all electronics at least an hour before bed.
Techniques» Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, anger management therapy, regular massages, and journaling are all great ways to reduce stress. Be willing to stretch outside of your comfort zone in order to see real change in your life.
Laughing» Watch funny TV shows, movies or videos. Read a funny book or spend time with upbeat people who make you laugh. Children and puppies can make you laugh, too. Spend more time with girlfriends and take time to rekindle old friendships.