In our daily lives, it is inevitable that we will feel stress. And admittedly, stress has gotten a bad rap. But stress is actually the natural response of our bodies when we are in difficult or dangerous situations. There’s what we call “good stress,” which allows us to think and act quickly when the need arises. It is short-term, which is why it’s fine.
However, there is also an unhealthy kind of stress, a kind that we experience frequently. That is the kind of stress we should be worried about, as the negative impacts on our health can be quite grave.
One negative impact that we will focus on in this article is weight gain. How exactly does stress cause weight gain?
Stress and weight gain: the relationship
When we find ourselves in stressful situations, our body’s alarm system triggers the production of cortisol. It is a stress hormone naturally created by our adrenal glands which are found in our kidneys.
With the release of cortisol, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. In this state, our regular body functions are interrupted, which includes slowing down our metabolic function. Therefore when we are under stress, our metabolism, which is responsible for converting food into energy, is unable to function properly. And as a result, we gain weight.
The weight we gain because of stress and the increased cortisol levels will usually manifest in the abdominal area. Take note that it is not just the excess weight in our abdomen that should worry us. What is more troublesome is that the additional weight we gain can lead to cardiovascular diseases.
Another way that elevated levels of cortisol in our bodies contribute to weight gain is that it leads to an increase in appetite. The types of food that we crave when we are under stress are sweet, fatty, salty, and high-calorie foods. The reason for this is that the sugar and calories from these types of food provide our bodies with the energy that we need when we feel worn out or exhausted.
Now you know why we look for ice cream, cakes, French fries, chips, donuts, sweetened drinks, and other unhealthy foods when we feel stressed!
Stress, weight gain, and the emotional impact
While weight gain due to stress is nothing to scoff at, you should know that there’s another aspect to remember: the emotional aspect.
Think of it this way: when we get stressed, we eat. And when we eat too much, we gain weight. And when we gain weight because of eating, we start to feel overwhelmed, especially if we feel like we cannot control the situation.
It becomes a vicious cycle: getting stressed, eating, gaining weight, getting stressed, and so on. And once we get stuck in the vicious cycle, we will find it hard to eat healthily. We will get stuck eating emotionally since we find comfort in stressful situations by eating unhealthy foods.
The more stress we experience in our lives, the more we turn to comfort foods to bring us momentarily relief and emotional satisfaction. And while it may temporarily feel that we are dealing with the stress, we are actually enabling stress to make the decisions for us on the types and kinds of food our bodies need and that we should consume.
In short, the more you feel like you are unable to control your life, the more you will eat unhealthily, and the more you will gain weight.
The physical impact of stress
Finding the time or the energy to be active during periods of stress is difficult. In fact, stress leads us to indulge less in physical activities. We find ourselves reserving the little energy that we have left to do other things we deem are more important.
And when we feel exhausted because we are stressed, we will sadly get bad sleep quality. Stress deprives our bodies of the rest and sleep that we need to have the energy to function properly. And because we lack energy, we replace it with eating unhealthy food or drinks. This provides us with the boost of energy that we need but comes from unhealthy food sources, which again will lead to weight gain in the long run. Long-term chronic stress can also boost feelings of hunger.
If our weight gain is unchecked, we might eventually get a BMI score of 25 and above, meaning we are overweight. Worse, it could mean that we have reached the obesity level that needs to be addressed immediately.
Being overweight or obese can lead to more serious health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Stress therefore not just affects our weight, but the overall quality of our lives.
Keeping an eye on our weight for health and wellness
However, all is not lost. Stress does not have to take control of our weight and our lives. There are ways that will allow stress to be part of our lives without disregarding care of our weight and overall health.
Being aware of how stress impacts our weight and health biologically, emotionally, and physically is a step in the right direction. This will allow us to check the negative ways that we have been coping with stress and its impact.
We can develop better coping strategies to avoid weight gain when we are stressed. Let us make a habit of indulging in physical activities such as taking a flight of stairs instead of taking the escalator. Take a bike instead of taking your car. But if you have to bring a car, park your vehicle in the farthest slot so that you’ll have to walk extra 100 steps or more to your destination.
Another way to cope with stress and avoid weight gain is to replace sweet, salty, and high-caloric food in our pantry with healthier choices. Try snacking on apples or celery sticks whenever you start craving. We can also subscribe to meditation apps when feelings of overwhelm and stress start to creep in. And if you need help, ask for the support of your family and friends to help you cope better with stress.
Take control of your life.
While you may feel that stress and weight gain are uncontrollable and you have no say in this matter, you have to remember something: you are in control of your life. First, accept that stress is a part of it. You will really face stressful situations. And the next thing you have to remember is that you don’t have to cope with it in an unhealthy manner.
Of course, if you feel your particular weight gain is something you need to take control of right away, we at The Weight Loss Surgery Center Of Los Angeles understand the situation. Many of our clients have been in your shoes. And we guarantee that we can help you in the best, safest way possible, with the most spectacular weight loss results.
You can reach out to us anytime with any questions you may have. We promise that will be here to address all your concerns and be of service to you.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.