Health & Wellness Articles

Beat Stress, Weigh Less

The Connection Between Stress and Weight Gain


Today, wild animals aren't attacking us, but we are facing huge stressors that affect our bodies exactly the same way as they always have, despite the fact that most of our modern-day stresses are not physical in nature and therefore don't burn any calories. Cortisol doesn't know that though, and it keeps coming, making you hungry—for simple, sugary carbs to supply you with instant energy. To make matters worse, moving the sugar we just ate from our blood to our muscles requires the hormone insulin. After stress, the body is filled with sugar and insulin, a fat-storing combination. Even worse, fat storage due to stress eating is usually centered around the midsection—visceral fat that has been linked to both diabetes and heart disease. Not good news for those who suffer from chronic stress.

Loss of Control
Many of us experience stress when we feel like life is out of our control or that we can't do what we need to do because of time or situational constraints. We may eat to fulfill emotional needs or to procrastinate. You may feel like we don't have enough time to fit in our workouts or lack the energy to exercise as long or intensely as you'd like. You may forget to pack a lunch, not have enough time to go to the grocery store or have reoccurring cravings for high-fat, calorie-dense foods. Fast food may seem like the only option that's both tasty and quick enough to scarf down over your lunch hour.

But just like everything else, eating when stressed is a somewhat learned behavior. Yes, there is brain chemistry involved, but over time, we can rewire our brains to not let stress affect our eating and energy levels. We can also deal with it head on by creating a stress-reduction plan and following simple tips to deal with stress and its negative effects. When you have more control over your life, you'll find that it's easier to stick to a healthy eating and workout plan. Eating better, exercising and combating stress—it's a combination to prevent weight gain and enhance weight loss.

Create a Stress-Reduction Plan
The first step to creating a stress-relief plan is realizing that you have too much stress in your life. First, take this online test to see if you are overly stressed. If you are, make a list of your stressors. Knowing what these stressors are is the first step to figuring out how to deal with them. Now identify one or two stressors that are within your control. Ask yourself if there's anything you can do to make your life easier. Is it looking for a different job? Getting up 20 minutes earlier so that you can miss the rush hour commute? Delegating some household chores to your children or significant other? So often we suffer from stress without ever thinking about the problem long enough to find a solution.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

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