How Stress Leads to Weight Gain
It would be an understatement to say that we live is stressful times!
Unfortunately, all of this excess stress can lead to an increase in weight. And whether the extra weight is a result of overeating and unhealthy food choices, or your body's response to increased levels of cortisol, getting a handle on stress is a priority if you want to prevent stress-related weight gain.
What stress does to your body
You may not notice it at first, but stress can have a noticeable effect on your body. From tight muscles and headaches to feeling irritated, overwhelmed, and out of control, stress takes a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Some of your body's responses to stress, such as weight gain, may take time to notice. Your body responds to stress by increasing levels of cortisol, which gets the body ready to "fight or flee."
If stress is always present, you can experience an overexposure to cortisol, which is a problem since cortisol is also a significant appetite stimulant.
This is why so many people respond to stress by going for comfort food.
And to make matters worse, the excess calories consumed in the setting of high cortisol appear to be preferentially deposited around the middle.
What's more, a 2015 study showed that our bodies metabolize slower under stress. The study found that the women participants who reported one or more stressors during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women.
What you can do about stress
When you're feeling stressed, there are several small steps you can take to calm down, including:
- exercise for 20 to 30 minutes
- get outdoors and enjoy nature
- nourish your body with healthy food
- cultivate social support (phone a friend)
- eliminate one item on your to-do list
- take a 10-minute yoga break
- ask family for help
- listen to music
- read a book
- go to bed one hour earlier
- spend time with a pet
- practice 10 minutes of deep breathing
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain. The good news is there are simple and effective ways to reduce daily stressors, and consequently, manage your weight.