I’m going to be talking about the relationship between stress and weight gain and how stress leads to weight gain. And so hopefully by the end of it, you’re going to have a good understanding of why it’s so important to address stress as part of a weight loss strategy.
Too much stress also leads to serious health problems (like heart disease) as well as weight gain—and belly fat is one of the most common forms of body fat found on people around the world. So how does this work? How can stress cause you to pack on pounds? even when it doesn’t seem like there’s anything going wrong with your diet or exercise routine?
Let’s dive right in!
HORMONAL RESPONSE TO STRESS
Let’s start by looking at what happens to the body when in stress.
So you have the stressful event — Let’s imagine you’re being chased by a Tiger. At the point when you realise you’ve been spotted by the tiger, your brain has spotted that threat and it sends a signal to your adrenal glands to produce cortisol, (the stress hormone) and adrenaline. Cortisol then goes on to prepare the body for that stressful event. And it does so by producing a load of glucose. And that sudden flood of glucose into the bloodstream is really helpful because you’re either going to be running away or fighting. Your muscles need energy and that’s what the glucose is for.
Cortisol also narrows up the arteries, and adrenaline increases the heart rate. So you get a raise in your blood pressure, and you’re gonna get that glucose delivered out to your tissues a lot quicker, and then all being well, that stress is going to go away, and everything is going to go back to normal.
This hormonal response to stress has been evolving pretty much since the dawn of time, you’ll see it in pretty much all mammals.
But in modern times, the way we experience stress is very, very different. It’s less of the life threatening events more work stress, financial stress, exam stress, negative online comments, even people (friends, colleagues, partner, kids etc) or being stuck in traffic. And rather annoyingly, our bodies still respond in the same way to these non life threatening stresses as they do to being chased by a tiger.
But before we get into the this causes weight gain, I want to know from you, are you someone who experiences a lot of stress in your life, just write in the comments down below, stressed or chilled, let us know!
Moving on— So,
As is the case with many of the hormones we find in the human body, they’re supposed to surge up and exert their effects on the body, and then come back down to a nice normal background level. And this is how our stress hormones are supposed to work. But if you’re getting stressed all the time, then it’s going to be a little bit different because you’re going to be having persistent raised levels of cortisol, and that has a very different impact on the body to those hormones just surging up temporarily and going back to normal.
CORTISOL AND FAT GAIN
There is a medical condition which causes continuous elevated cortisol levels. And that’s really useful to take a look at because it kind of gives us an extreme version of what persistently raised cortisol levels, such as what we experience when we’re persistently stressed does to the body.
For example; Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor which tells the adrenal glands to produce high levels of cortisol on an ongoing basis. I’m not going to go through all the processes of what happens in terms of Cushing’s today(hey remember I’m not even a doctor), what we want to focus on is the fat gain, abdominal fat are persistently raised and high cortisol levels cause fat to be redistributed from all over your body to around your abdomen. And that fat is what’s called visceral fat. It’s visceral fat that’s associated with heart disease, and a load of other medical problems, and how a lot of people get so much belly fat.
At this point your body reacts to the elevated cortisol by showing certain symptoms;
– Increased Hunger and Binge Eating
Our chronic stress also increases hunger, and make us make poor food choices like fried foods or sugary beverages. And in particular, people have a tendency to go for those comfort foods, the ones that have the classic trifecta of fatness, which is high fat, high refined carbs, and high calories, all in one thing.
– Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance means less sugar gets burnt off by working muscles as energy during exercise or when the body is at work generally is given off.
i.e insulin suddenly spike up and store that glucose as fat cos cortisol actually inhibits insulin production so that glucose isn’t getting stored, so they turn into fat cells instead! This leads us back around again.
So when addressing the reasons why we put on weight, especially around the abdomen, stress plays a significant role. And it’s also a significant hook that a lot of people experience when trying to lose weight. I’ve seen many people that are doing all the right stuff with regards to their diet. But if they are not addressing the stress, then their weight loss can be really, really slow or non existent at all.
You can try some of these actionable tips on how to reduce stress.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
We already know that stress can lead to weight gain and belly fat, but what else? Stress may also increase your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. It has also been linked with unhealthy eating habits and poor sleep patterns, increasing your cravings for sweet salty and fatty food.
You can also add fatigue and depression to the list as well as weakening of the immune system.
Additionally, the area of the body where people gain weight as a result of elevated cortisol level is frequently the abdomen, and Cardiovascular disease is thought to be brought on by excess fat around this region and the waist.
You can see this article here on some actionable tips on how to reduce belly fat .
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you want to lose weight, it’s important to take a look at your diet and exercise habits. The first step is making sure that you’re eating a healthy diet. This can be as simple as cutting back on the amount of sugar and processed food in your daily meals.
Next, it’s time for some exercise! If there’s one thing we now know about the way our body works, it’s that when we feel stressed out cortisol level goes up and our bodies respond by storing glucose as fat especially around the abdomen and waistline. So take some time each week—even if it’s just 20 minutes—to go outside and walk around town or run some laps around the block before work/ school/ home life gets busy again!
Or if you’ve got the time you could engage in some easy full body workouts when you wake up in the morning before you start your day.
Finally, learn how to manage stress so that its negative effects aren’t amplified by other factors such as sleep deprivation or being sedentary throughout most daylight hours without any breaks whatsoever. This may sometimes lead to back pain caused by prolonged sitting upright posture position over long periods
Stress can lead to weight gain and most especially belly fat. The most important thing you can do is to learn how to manage your stress, this will help you lose weight faster and keep it off in the long run!
And make sure you have time for yourself. No one will love you like you, so treat yourself better.