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Does stress make you fat?

I’ve always found that during stressful periods of my life, my stomach is the first place to feel bloated! 😔 So is there a link?

Medical research has shown that high levels of negative stress can significantly impact your ability to maintain a healthy weight. It can also prevent you from losing weight.

It could be the result of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, unhealthy stress-induced behaviors, or maybe both!

It’s also important to note that not all stress is bad and we do need stress and it can be a positive thing. However when stress levels are constantly high, this can cause reduced positive outcomes.

Here's the science bit:

When you're overly stressed, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, and as a result, glucose (your primary source of energy) is released into your bloodstream.

Once the stress has subsided, your adrenaline high wears off and your blood sugar spike drops. This is when cortisol kicks into high gear to replenish your energy supply quickly.

Cue the sugar cravings.

Because sugar supplies your body with the quick energy it thinks it needs, it's often the first thing you reach for when you're stressed.

The downside to consuming so much sugar is that your body tends to store sugar, especially after stressful situations. This energy is stored mainly in the form of abdominal fat, which can be particularly hard to shed. And so the vicious cycle starts: get stressed, release cortisol, gain weight, crave more sugar, eat more sugar, gain more weight.

Cortisol and Metabolism

Even if you aren't eating foods high in fat and sugar, cortisol has also shown to slow down your metabolism, making it difficult to lose weight.

Research found that Stressed women also had higher insulin levels, a hormone that contributes to fat storage.

Behavioural changes due to Stress

In addition to the hormonal changes related to stress, stress can also drive you to unhealthy habits that can make you gain weight.

  • Emotional eating

  • Craving and eating more sugary based foods

  • Exercising less

  • Erratic eating

  • Sleeping less

  • Not drinking enough water

How to gain back some control and lower your stress levels

Maintaining a routine can help make the following healthy behaviours a habit and combat stress-related weight changes.

Here are a few strategies that can help you break the cycle of stress and weight gain:

  1. Start the day with a morning routine- I find this an absolute must. Starting the day calmly and with a bit more time definitely allows you to be more in control and on the right setting.

  2. Practice gratitude- allowing you to put things into perspective and bringing positive thoughts to the forefront of your mind.

  3. Exercise daily- exercise releases endorphins, the feel good hormones that will put a smile on your face after working out or getting your heart rate up.Exercising is a critical component of stress reduction and weight management. It also helps you get into the right mindset to make healthier food choices.

  4. Always sit down when eating food. Whether it is a small snack or a full meal, being mindful of what you're eating helps you to be calm and be in the moment.

  5. Drink more water-It's easy to confuse thirst for hunger. But confusing these two cravings can lead you to eat more calories than your body needs, prompting weight gain. It's much easier to identify hunger after you've eliminated any mild dehydration.

  6. Eat mindfully- Focus on what you are eating without distractions. One study found that overweight women who had mindfulness-based stress and nutrition training were better able to avoid emotional eating, and had lower stress levels, which led to less belly fat over time. Next time you eat a meal, try enjoying it without the distraction of your phone or the TV.

  7. Practice deep breathing -I love to do this first thing in the morning outside. Breathing in fresh air and listening to the sound of nature is just so calming.

  8. Implement some relaxing techniques that work for you- reading, a relaxing bath with scented candles, a walk, some drawing, cooking, anything that keeps you calm and grounded.

I do hope you found these tips helpful. 💗

However, If your stress and/or stress-related weight gain is causing you distress or making it unmanageable to fulfill daily responsibilities, it may be time to seek professional health.

Please do feel free to comment, like or share this article with others who may be able to benefit.

Much love, Farzana 💗

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