How Stress Prevents Weight Loss And 3 Ways To Beat It
How stress prevents weight loss sounds counter-intuitive. Surely the more stressd you are, the more weight you lose? Not so, Im afraid..
Youre under pressure. Youre anxious and on the go all the time. You arent overeating and you are exercising a fair amount, yet you seem to be gaining weight, rather than losing. What the heck is going on?
The hustle and bustle of daily life naturally creates a certain amount of pressure that actually helps us function. A demanding work environment, family issues, illness, financial worries and relationship problems are part of life, but its the impact that they have that matters.
Constant, chronic low- or high-grade type of stress that can wreak havoc on your emotional as well as physical health. Aside from causing anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation, stress can lead to hypertension, weight problems and an increased vulnerability to colds, infections and more serious illnesses.
5 Reasons How Stress Prevents Weight Loss
2. Stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol: cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes body fat and makes it harder to lose weight, especially around the middle. This is called visceral fat and is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes .
If Stress Prevents Weight Loss Then Here Are 3 Simple Ways to Help Beat Stress
What Can I Do
âRead the labels,â says Miles. âYou need to look at the overall energy and calories. Although a food may have a reduced amount of fat, it may still have the same amount of calories.â
A food labelled âlow-fatâ may still contain more calories than an alternative. For example, a âlow-fatâ muffin may contain more calories than a currant bun.
Find more healthy food alternatives in Healthy food swaps.
Other Symptoms Of Cortisol Imbalance
Other symptoms of imbalanced cortisol include an initial jolt of energy, that then fades to exhaustion when youve been under pressure for so long.
So, cortisol makes it harder to lose weight, adds belly fat, amplifies your food cravings, and steals your energy.
Ok thats a bummer, but soon you will see theres hope.
You May Like: How Can You Get Rid Of Stress
Stress Can Affect Your Diet
Stress can also change your relationship with food.
On one hand, 50 percent of us eat more when we’re stressed, which can lead to weight gain, says Brian Fertig, MD, associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. And remember, not getting enough sleep is also linked to eating more calories and processed foods, per the âNature Communicationsâ research.
Stress also triggers your body to release the hormone cortisol, which helps you stay on high alert so you can handle a dangerous situation, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Cortisol can likewise trigger cravings for sugary, salty and fatty foods â quick calories that provide fuel for fighting or fleeing a stressor, but that can also contribute to weight gain, per the Cleveland Clinic.
On the other hand, the remaining 50 percent of us eat less during times of stress, Dr. Fertig says. This is why stress and anxiety can cause weight loss for some people.
Have A Cheat Day Or At Least Dessert One Day A Week
You dont have to eat perfect ALL of the time. If you really miss chocolate cake or ice cream, allow yourself ONE cheat day or just a cheat dessert on Saturday for example.
Thats right! Im talking about even refined food!
This has been an essential part of how to lose stress weight for me. I love my cheat day. I dont feel deprived, and then my body is so used to healthy food, that Im excited to go back to my anti-inflammatory diet the next day.
Make sure this is something you plan for, not an impulsive decision that keeps happening over and over again. That will defeat the purpose and you wont lose the weight.
For a good mid-week treat, I recommend at least 70% or 80% dark chocolate because its lower in sugar, high in antioxidants, and its so decadent.
You May Like: What To Do When Work Is Too Stressful
Nutrition To Balance Cortisol
From a nutritional perspective, you can assist your bodys inborn mechanisms to balance hormones by focusing on blood sugar balance, anti-inflammatory food choices, and eating regularly.
Making sure youre getting *enough* food and nutrients so your body doesnt feel deprived and stressed is also key, since restriction can raise cortisol.
You may be thinking, if I eat more, how can I lose weight?
Recommended Reading: How To Relieve My Cats Stress
Visualize A More Relaxed Self
Imagining a less-stressed self is the first step to actually feeling less stressed out. Researchers at Texas State University have found that visualization exercises and guided imagery are effective means of increasing feelings of self-control and reducing stress. So, if you’re struggling with stress, try imagining the cool, calm, collected self you’d like to be.
You May Like: Can Stress Cause Chest Tightness
Hyperstimulation Can Lead To Gastrointestinal Distress
Your body slows digestion during the fight or flight response so it can focus on how to respond to the stressor.
This can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, such as:
- stomach pain
Chronic stress can amplify these symptoms and result in other underlying conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome.
These changes to your digestive system may cause you to eat less, subsequently losing weight.
To Lose Weight Faster Control Your Stress Heres How To Do It Effectively
A busy lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with stress. And while stress is known to cause anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and exhaustion, among other things, it is also linked to weight gain. So, this may be the reason why you are not losing weight exercising and eating right.
A new study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, shows how chronic exposure to stress is linked with obesity due to the relationship between fat cells and the timing of stress hormones. if you experience chronic, continuous stress or take glucocorticoids at night, the resulting loss of normal circadian glucocorticoid oscillations will result in significant weight gain, says Mary Teruel, assistant professor of chemical and systems biology at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Nutrition and fitness consultant Munmun Ganeriwal says in times of stress, our body releases hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is linked with insulin resistance, sugar cravings, and weight gain. The equation is higher stress equals higher cortisol which means a greater craving for junk food which leads to more belly fat, she says.
The effect of stress over time
What to do
The strategies to beat stress and associated weight gain involve relaxing the brain, calming the nerves and cells, as well as stimulating the production of repairing hormones- HGH and testosterone which counter the negative effects of cortisol. Heres a simple four-step approach suggested by Ganeriwal and Thacker to do so:
Also Check: What Symptoms Does Stress Cause
Sign #: They Look Sound And Act Frazzled
Some people make it easy. During an intake they might just come out and say, You know, stress is a big problem for me.
Or maybe they say, Ive literally tried everything. Im starting to think it might be stress related. What do you think?
Other clients, however, are more subtle.
They might not communicate their stress with actual words, but rather with their tone of voice, their pinched facial expression, or the flurried way they send texts at midnight. And at 2 a.m. And 3 a.m.
They also might reveal it in their writing style: lots of exclamation points, a generous use of all caps, or a proclivity for angry emojis. For them, its almost as if they just dont have time to bother with punctuation or capitalization. Theyre that busy.
Recommended Reading: How To Relieve Stress Stomach Pain
Stress Less Sleep More
Have you ever wished for more hours of sleep and a less stressful life in general? Most people have stress and lack of sleep can be bad news for weight.
Chronic stress and inadequate sleep may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. This can cause increased hunger, resulting in overeating highly palatable foods and therefore weight gain.52 If youre looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, it may immediately affect your stress hormone levels and perhaps your weight.
You should also make an effort to get enough good sleep, preferably every night. Strive to wake up refreshed of your own accord, independently of the alarm clock. If youre the kind of person who always gets brutally woken up by the alarm ringing, you might never be giving your body completely adequate rest.
One way to combat this is to go to bed early enough for your body to wake up autonomously before the alarm clock goes off. Letting yourself get a good nights sleep is another way of reducing stress hormone levels.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with sugar cravings.53 It also has an adverse effect on self-discipline and makes it painfully easy to give in to temptation . Similarly, sleep deprivation weakens your resolve to work out.
Also Check: Where Can You Get Stress Balls
Cortisol Can Lead To Weight Gain
Cortisol stimulates your fat and carbohydrate metabolism, creating a surge of energy in your body. While this process is essential for survival situations, it also increases your appetite. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods. This means youre more likely to indulge in french fries and a milkshake than you are a well-balanced meal.
An excess of cortisol also can lead your body to produce less testosterone. This may cause a decrease in muscle mass, as well as slow down how many calories your body burns.
Alteration Of The Hpa Axis
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis controls the bodys response to stress, which affects cortisol levels.
When the body is under stress, the pituitary gland signals to the adrenal glands to release cortisol. This hormone increases the bodys fuel for energy by releasing fatty acids and glucose from the liver.
Cortisol also helps regulate the bodys immune response and reduces inflammation.
Chronic stress impairs the functioning of the HPA axis, causing changes in metabolism and eating habits.
Don’t Miss: What Can Stress And Depression Cause
Create A Consistent Sleep Routine
Stress and sleep are intertwined. A lack of sleep can make you more vulnerable to stress, but its hard to doze off when youre stressed.
And if youre burning the midnight oil fairly often, sleep deprivation is associated with higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
This can lead to stress eating.
A healthy sleep routine can help. That includes establishing a consistent bedtime, so your brain learns when its time to wind down.
When you go to bed only when youre tired, youre introducing too much unpredictability into your sleep schedule, says Mia Finkelston, M.D., family practice physician. That can catch up with you.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, spending 5 to 10 minutes on a calming routine like deep breathing or guided imagery can also help relieve stress before bed.
What Is Making You Stressed
Ask yourself this question: what is making you stressed?
Sometimes we can feel overwhelmedand anxiouswithout actually knowing what is making us feel this way. By identifying what is causing you stress you can work towards reducing and overcoming the anxiety associated with it.
Is it work? Family? Relationship? Health? Perhaps it is multiple things.
While you cannot change everything, once you know what is causing some stress in your life you can look at ways to fix the problem
Read Also: Why Do I Have So Much Stress
Stress Can Slow Your Metabolism
“Stress affects every system, but mainly it comes down to the nervous, endocrine and immune systems â all three of those work almost as a unit,” Dr. First says. ” those three systems become unbalanced over time, they cause the deficiency of different mediators and different hormones in the body, and your metabolism.”
Indeed, an April 2015 study in âBiological Psychiatryâ found that people who reported a stressful event in the last 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than those who did not.
The research also found that those who experienced a stressful event in the 24 hours before eating a high-fat meal had less calorie burn than those who weren’t stressed â a lack of calorie burn so significant that it could amount to 11 pounds of weight gain in a year.
However, this research only included 58 people, so larger studies are needed to better establish this link.
Stress can also slow your metabolism indirectly. Behaviors associated with stress â like not getting enough sleep â alter our body’s ability to regulate metabolism and appetite, which may contribute to weight gain, per a November 2019 report in the âJournal of Lipid Researchâ.
Similarly, going from a consistent diet to a disrupted one â whether the disruptions are snacking on more processed foods or skipping meals â can slow down your metabolism, according to the University of Louisville.
Ways Stress And Weight Are Connected
Whether it’s the pandemic, burnout from work or relationship issues, stress is a part of everyday life. And while some stress is normal, chronic stress can take a toll on your health. Case in point: your weight. Indeed, stress can cause weight loss or gain.
Video of the Day
Let’s first clarify that temporary stress can be a good thing: Acute stress can help you stay alert to your surroundings and may even stimulate your body’s ability to recover in situations of short-term strain, like surgery, according to Stanford Medicine.
But when stress becomes chronic, it can negatively affect your body and mind, per Stanford Medicine. That’s because today, stress often manifests as a response to mentally taxing situations, like trauma, grief or burnout .
Living in a prolonged state of stress can literally change your body’s functioning, which can have an effect on your weight, per Stanford Medicine. It can also lead to coping mechanisms that likewise contribute to weight changes.
Here, we talked to experts to learn about the connections between stress and weight gain or loss .
Chronic stress is linked to conditions like hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, addiction and mood and anxiety disorders, according to Yale Health. As a result, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you have prolonged stress to help prevent long-term health issues.
Also Check: How To Relax And Sleep When Stressed
Stick To Your Workout Schedule
Bad news first: Theres no such thing as spot reduction, so you cant lose weight only from your belly.
The good news is that you can build muscle and reduce overall fat including stress belly by maintaining a consistent, full-body workout routine.
So, what are the best exercises for burning fat?
The one youll do consistently, but research suggests that a combo of strength training and high-intensity interval training is one of your best options.
Why Does Stress Lead To Weight Gain
Short-term stress is not necessarily tied to long-term endocrine disturbance however, chronic long-term stress can cause hormone dysregulation leading to weight gain via an increase in appetite, poor glucose control, and increased fat storage .
Chronic stress also tends to increase cravings for calorie-dense foods and these cravings are more pronounced in women than men . Let us review some of the hormones involved in the long-term stress response.
The bodys prime directive during periods of acute stress is to mobilize energy stores, keeping them ready to provide energy so the person can either fight or flight.
Don’t Miss: How To Stop Stress Headaches
Cortisol Can Prompt Your Body To Store More Fat
The cortisol that revs you up to deal with a stressful situation can help you escape temporary danger, but chronically elevated cortisol levels are linked to weight gain.
More specifically: “Elevated cortisol levels directly contribute to central abdominal weight gain,” Dr. Fertig says. In other words, long-term stress can prompt you to store more belly fat.
Reducing Your Cortisol Levels
When you reduce your stress, your cortisol levels will also decrease.
To lower your stress, you may need to focus on your mind and body. By doing so, your brain will feel less threatened, and itll tell your adrenal gland to lower your cortisol levels.
Follow these eight tips to manage stressful symptoms:
- Nourish your body with healthier food choices.
- Reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Streamline your daily to-do list and say no more often.
- Go outdoors and enjoy nature.
- Practice deep breathing and meditation, even if its for five minutes.
- Reach out to your family, friends, a therapist and social support system.
Also Check: Can Stress Make You Nauseous
Schedule Time For Fun
Take care of yourself, especially when you can feel the tension building in your shoulders. Do this by scheduling time for fun.
Make time to meet up with friends, have a museum visit, go ice skating or go-carting with the kids.
And make sure you set time aside for getting a massage, a manicure or pedicure if possible.
Another great way to take care of yourself? Hit the sauna if you can. Sweating in the sauna for 10 minutes boosts your metabolism and circulation AND releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins.