Can Stress Make You Fat?
The Role Stress Plays in Weight Gain
Sometimes it's hard to explain weight gain, if we're eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising. When you try to button those skinny jeans, and they feel too snug, there might be something else causing those extra pounds. Stress plays a critical role in our weight, and if you are dealing with chronic stress, it can lead to weight gain and illness, such as diabetes.
“Stress can definitely cause weight gain,” said Jenny Giblin, a therapist and nutrition coach who has been featured on the Dr. Oz show and numerous magazines.
Giblin said, “A small part of this is because of the way we sometimes cope with stress, reaching for chocolate or eating unhealthy foods, watching TV instead of working out, etc. While it might seem as if stress weakens your willpower, the real reason is Cortisol. Cortisol demands the most readily available sources of energy: high fat, simple carb foods that you body can use quickly. That’s why bowls of pasta,
brownies, cookies, and potato chips are sources of comfort food. They are
exactly what your body craves in times of trouble.”
But food has nothing to do with the main reason you gain weight. “It may be our body's biological response to stress. When you are under any kind of stress, the brain releases chemicals down to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and are part of the nervous system response. They in turn send adrenaline to the heart, which makes your heart beat go faster, breathing more rapid, etc. But they also change the way the fat in the abdominal area grows. They secrete steroids that go into the stomach area and cause the belly fat to grow larger.”
Anita Avalos, eating psychology coach and teacher, said, “If you think you are doing “everything right” in order to lose weight, but the scale just won't budge, you might just want to start looking at how
much stress you are under, especially when eating.”
“Even if you are eating the best foods and are getting in plenty of exercise, stress can greatly negate your body's ability to burn calories and build muscle, while increasing belly fat and overall weight gain.”
Avalos said, “Anytime you are feeling stressed out by stressors that are either real or imagined, your body goes into the stress-response, commonly known as the
fight-or-flight response. At the onset of a stressful event (either in your mind as you replay an event or as it happens in real time), your body starts pumping stress hormones like cortisol, insulin and adrenaline into your blood stream. And when this happens around mealtime, any blood flow that would have been in your midsection to help you digest food is sent to your brain to help you think quickly and to your extremities so you can get
out of danger quickly.”
Obviously, this evolutionary response is brilliant for real danger, but it's a recipe for metabolic disaster in day-to-day life, she said.
“Your body doesn't know if a lion is chasing you or if you had a horrible fight
with your beloved; both are big stressors to the body and both elicit the stress response to varying degrees. Thyroid hormones, nutrient absorption, digestion and thermogenic efficiency all take a hit when your body is in stress mode, while appetite can actually increase.”
“As you can see, it's not just what you eat but how you eat it that counts. Taking time for slow, relaxed, pleasurable eating and managing stress are crucial for reaching and maintaining a happy, healthy weight,” she said.
Giblin shared five easy ways to de-stress and to prevent stress-related weight gain:
1. Passion Flower Extract. This herbal remedy is sold at most vitamin stores and has been clinically proven to be as effective as most anti-anxiety medications, without the serious side effects. It is not addictive and can be an amazing supplement to your daily routine.
2. Try this simple yet effective breathing technique. Inhale, counting the number of seconds it takes to breathe in. Exhale, doubling that amount. So for example, breathe in for three and out for six. Continue this cycle. This is my favorite breathing technique and can instantly help relieve stress and
boost your mood.
3. Find positive, healthier ways to deal with stress. Schedule time to go to yoga, the gym, or even just a walk outside, or listen to your favorite
4. Certain superfoods have also been shown to improve stress. I recommend
using this superfood smoothie: 2 cups of Spinach, 1 Banana, 1/2 cup of
Pineapple, 2 Tbs of Flax or Chia Seeds,blended with Coconut Water or
Coconut milk. The spinach and pineapple can help boost your mood, while
the chia and flax are filled with Omega 3s that are clinically proven to
help with depression and anxiety.
5. Consider finding a therapist. Being able to talk to someone about stress in a way that can help you resolve it can be the best way to overcome it.
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