Our greatest weapon against stress is knowledge and planning.
I think we can all agree that stress is bad. Excess stress can cause headaches, muscle tension, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, depression, and now new research shows it may also wreak havoc on your figure.
You’re having problems at work or personal life.
You’re stressed, and it will begin to show. Stress will cause weight gain in most individuals around the mid-section.
Stress is often the cause. Stress plays a massive role in a person’s weight gain. For some people, stress can cause them to lose their appetite all together. Often temporary. Long-term “chronic” stress increases hunger, and the result is usually weight gain from using food for comfort, but why does this happen?
Fight & Flight
Most of us seek comfort when we are under a lot of stress and pressure in any aspect of life, work, home, finances, etc. Thanks to your fight-or-flight response. When your body reaches a high-stress level, this level is subjective and can be different for everyone. Still, when it’s high, it will kick in survival mode.. constant hunger leads to binge eating and some satisfaction, though temporary.
Why? Because your body thinks you’ll need a surplus of calories to deal with the stress. Our bodies are pretty brilliant. The result is a drive to replenish and store calories, leading to fat storage.
Cortisol and Comfort Foods
The stress hormone, cortisol, rises during high-stress times. This hormone change can turn your overeating into a habit. Because increased levels of the cortisol will cause higher insulin levels when your blood sugar drops… you begin to crave high sugar, carb-filled, and fatty foods.
So instead of a sensible side salad or a lean protein, you’re more likely to reach for cookies or mac and cheese. That’s why they’re called “comfort foods.”
Eating comfort foods can provide a small escape and pleasure, resulting in lower stress level TEMPORARILY.
This temporary pleasure is when the body releases dopamine, highly addictive, playing a role in happiness, reward, mood, and gratification.
High fat and sugar-filled foods are usually the biggest culprits because lots of us have such a strong love for them.
The bottom line? “More stress = more cortisol = higher appetite for junk food = more belly fat.
Some everyday Stress-Induced Eating Habits
Consuming high-fat, high-sugar foods.
Going through a long period of stress, we will crave fatty, salty, and sugar-filled foods. These cravings lead typically to processed food, all things that are not good for us.
Spikes in your cortisol can cause you to eat more than you usually would, or should. You are finding yourself never full or satisfied. Once you get started, you’re not able to stop. Being physically full, but not happy is a common symptom. Repeated trips to the refrigerator, opening and closing the door.
You are eating fast food more often.
When we are stressed, we will lose enthusiasm for cooking, so the quick, fast, and cheap trip through the drive-through will seem appropriate. Restaurant food is almost always higher in fat, sugar, sodium, and more significant portions than we should eat in one sitting.
“Too busy” to exercise.
Under higher stress, a person’s drive and motivation will be much lower, and vegging out on the couch will be more inviting. Skipping a workout often can be the slippery slope into an extended period of not stepping foot in a gym.
Lack of water-dehydration:
It’s easy to confuse thirst for hunger, and you will naturally eat more when you’re not drinking enough. Water is no longer a priority; hours into a day, you realize you haven’t even drunk an ounce of water. Being hydrated takes being consistent. Once dehydrated, it takes time to rehydrate. Coffee and tea aren’t great substitutes for the caffeine cause further dehydration.
Missing meals-starvation mode:
When you overwhelmed, overworked, and consumed with the stress, food prep isn’t a priority. Time will seem to be at warp speed. Eating a healthy meal becomes a low priority. Skipping breakfast is the most common. Or not eating lunch because there’s too much to get caught up on so you work through lunch.
On social media, you keep hearing about the latest diet trends or fad and how it worked for someone famous or perhaps a friend. So you try a dangerous fad diet to lose the excess weight quickly. Diets are just that temporary, restrictive, and results aren’t good, destruction of your metabolic engine and malnutrition, to name a few. Creating a healthy lifestyle that isn’t temporary, or painful is the key! I would love to help!
It’s pretty common to sleep less when under a lot of stress. Research has linked sleep deprivation to a slower metabolism and difficulty in losing weight. Being overly tired can also lower a person’s willpower to eat healthily and be active.
If the stress wasn’t enough, it could be amplified when your clothes don’t fit well, and your weight is climbing or not moving. Even with a work out plan or a meal plan, if the stress isn’t lowered, these won’t matter. You can work out 2 hours a day even, and it won’t budge the scale.
Here are a few ideas to help break the cycle:
Make exercise priority-no excuses.
Exercise is excellent for lowering stress. Not only does it burn calories, but it can also reduce your cortisol levels, and increase endorphins, feel-good hormones! Exercise or movement doesn’t have to take up 2 hours. Go for a short walk a couple of times a day. Find small holes in your schedule and get moving. Be sure whatever you choose it’s not punishment, its something you enjoy. The value that time, honoring it, and think of it as a time to get away from it all.
Learn to be mindful when you eat.
Paying close attention to your eating habits can help you gain control over your food consumption. Tracking everything you eat and drink in a day in a food journal can be useful. Slowing down and enjoying quality foods, by their appearance, texture, flavors, and being in the moment, can improve your eating.
Incorporate stress-relief strategies into your daily life.
What do you enjoy doing to reboot, or get energized from? Everyone is different, and we all need a few things to be able to do at a moment’s notice. Maybe its yoga or reading a book. Incorporate stress relief time blocks in your daily schedule.
Sleep eight hours every night.
Create a nightly ritual that ensures you get the same 8 hours of sleep every night, no matter the day. “Catching up sleep” on the weekend doesn’t work. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every night is the key to a great sleep schedule.
I created this fun quiz to see if you are Self Care Tank is low, CLICK HERE