You may have heard that stress can affect your body in many ways and that your waistline is a particularly notable victim of stress. Sadly, this is true. There are several ways in which stress can contribute to weight gain. One has to do with cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. When we’re under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered in our bodies, leading to the release of various hormones, including cortisol. When we have more cortisol in our system, we may crave less healthy food options like snacks containing high sugar and fat content, and this can affect weight.
Do you feel like you’re prone to putting on more weight when you’re stressed, even if you’re eating the same amount of food as you always have? Too much cortisol can impact your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience. This also makes dieting more difficult.
2. Blood Sugar
Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings and fatigue. Too much stress has even been linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health concerns that can lead to greater health problems, like heart attacks and diabetes.
OK, you’re stressed. Do you reach for a nice salad or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? I’ll bet on the latter. People experiencing chronic stress tend to crave more fatty, salty and sugary foods. This includes sweets, processed food and other things that aren’t as good for you. These foods are typically less healthy and lead to increased weight gain.
4. Emotional Eating
Increased levels of cortisol can not only make you crave unhealthy food, but excess nervous energy can often cause you to eat more than you normally would. How many times have you found yourself scouring the kitchen for a snack, or absently munching on junk food when you’re stressed, but not really hungry? More on what causes emotional eating.
5. Fat Storage
Excessive stress even affects where we tend to store fat. Higher levels of stress are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. This is particularly bad because, unfortunately, abdominal fat is not only aesthetically undesirable, it’s linked to greater health risks than fat stored in other areas of the body. Stress and weight gain are connected in other ways, too. These are the top stress-weight connections.
5. Being Too Busy to Exercise
With all the demands on your schedule, exercise may be one of the last things on your to-do list. If so, you’re not alone. Americans live a more sedentary lifestyle than we have in past generations, yet our minds seem to be racing from everything we have to do. Unfortunately, from sitting in traffic, clocking hours at our desks, and plopping in front of the TV in exhaustion at the end of the day, exercise often goes by the wayside.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to reverse the pattern of weight gain and actually reduce your stress level and waistline at the same time. Try them. They work.