Every day, stress is there to make things complicated and difficult and embarrassing and exasperating. It makes us incapable of being productive.
Worse, it makes us engage in unhealthy lifestyle that could lead to weight gain. For instance, some people find comfort from calorie-dense, nutritionally empty foods when they are stressed.
Stress and Weight Gain
Stress signals your body to consume and store fats.
When we are under stress, our body’s ‘flight or fight’ system is activated. During this period, your body releases a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CHR and cortisol.
These are hormones that make you feel alert, ready for action, and able to withstand injury. In a short term, adrenaline would make you feel less hungry because your blood flows away from your organs to your muscles and make them ready to face the ‘threat’.
But as your adrenaline levels wane, your cortisol levels remain high, signalling your body to replenish your food supply. So your tendency is to eat, eat and eat, with more preference on sugary foods.
Stress gives you ‘belly fat’.
In this modern world – where most people spend hours sitting and working on the computer, it has become a challenge to stay lean and fit. If you are chronically stressed with the demands of work and life, you become more likely to develop ‘visceral fat’ deep in your belly.
Unfortunately, your belly has plenty of supply of blood vessels and cortisol receptors, making the production of visceral fats so easy and quick. What’s more, belly fat is unhealthy and is linked to increased risk of stroke and heart disease.
It is also difficult to eliminate. Unless you exercise more often and eat low-calorie foods, the fats accumulated in your belly are likely to grow and ‘bulge’ even more.
Stress fuels emotional eating.
Eating to feed your emotions, not your stomach, can jumpstart obesity. Anxiety and stress are so energy-draining that too often; we end up looking for something to eat. Unfortunately, stress makes us choose cookies and cakes over fruits, crisps and pizza over vegetables, and fizzy drinks and beer over water.
Another thing, when we are stressed, we tend to eat ‘mindlessly’, resulting to overeating. No need to further explain why this in turn causes weight gain.
Stress affects your sleep.
So what does sleep have to do with weight gain? For years, scientists have suspected that sleep and obesity are linked. Research has found that stressed people who stay up late at night are more likely to reach for plain carbohydrates like cookies, doughnuts and pastries.
“It’s not like they’re going for whole-wheat pasta,” according to Taub-Dix, the spokesperson of the American Diabetic Association. Also, when you lack sleep, your willpower to resist food cravings also decreases, so you tend to eat more.
Quick and East Anti-Stress Strategies
Whether you’re undergoing a weight loss programme or considering one, here are some stress-busting techniques that you may find useful.
Eat or Drink more Vitamin C
A study by the University of Alabama found that vitamin C stopped the secretion of stress hormones. So have a look into food and drinks that are rich in vitamin C.
‘Pet’ your pet.
Give yourself time to take a break from your stressful work and pamper your pets. Researchers at State University of New York found that pets give more stress relief than our two-legged companions.
Shake it out.
When you’re highly stressed, pause for a moment and shake your arms, hands and the rest of your body. It relieves tension, boosts blood flow and clams your mind.
Bring your music player to work.
Research by Pennsylvania’s Wilkes University suggests that listening to music lowers your stress levels at work and at the same time, reduces your risk of common cold.
Even if you don’t feel like doing it, just smile. Just the act makes you relaxed and in control.
This doesn’t just help you lose weight but also boosts the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain that relieves stress and boosts your mood.
A study by the University of Missouri at Columbia found that 33 minutes of high-intensity exercise helps lower stress levels more than working out at a moderate pace.
Can you suggest more ways to fight stress?
Feel free to post your comment below.
Wishing you a stress-free weekend.
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist
Part of the Core Health Centre