If there is one that we all have in common, it is stress. Unfortunately, excess stress leads to a multitude of consequences such as an increase in weight. 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. Let’s look into how stress causes you to gain weight and what you can do to minimise it.
So, you may not notice it at first, but stress can have a noticeable impact on your body. It can start with tight muscles and headaches to feeling irritated, overwhelmed, and out of control. Stress takes a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health and should not be ignored.
The way that your body responds to stress is by increasing levels of cortisol, which gets the body ready to fight or flee. Cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands, increases in response to a threat. When you no longer perceive a threat, cortisol levels return to normal. However, if stress is always present, you can experience an overexposure to cortisol, which experts says is a problem since cortisol is also a significant appetite stimulant. This is why so many individuals respond to stress by going for comfort food.
Now that you have had a bit of a crash course in cortisol let’s look at the risks of stress and weight gain. When stress peaks or becomes difficult to manage, more serious, long-term health-related consequences can occur. Depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, anxiety, and obesity are all linked to untreated chronic stress.
The risks associated with weight gain include but are not limited to higher blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, reproductive problems, a decrease in lung and respiratory function and an increase in joint pain. You also need to consider the huge connection between obesity and certain cancers. Finally, your mental health can also take a massive hit.
You are probably wondering what are the ways you can reduce your stress to limit or eliminate your weight gain? Well when you’re feeling stressed, there are several small steps you can take to calm down such as exercising for 20 to 30 minutes, getting outdoors and enjoying nature, nourishing your body with healthy food, seeking social support, take a 20-minute yoga break, ask family for help, practice mindfulness meditation, listen to music, read a book, go to bed earlier, be kind to yourself, spend time with a pet, practice 10 minutes of deep breathing and ditch the caffein and alcohol.
A useful app we recommend you start using is Calm. It is available on all smartphones and androids, has free options and premium options and has honestly helped us in taking a step back and minimising our stress levels.