Why You Crave Comfort Food When Youre Stressed
Chronic stress has an almost diabolical effect on the metabolism. Chronic stress may influence our brains reward system in areas such as the amygdala and hippocampus, which may promote food cravings, says Chao.
The secretion of cortisol in response to a stressor also tells your body to store belly fat, says Shawn Talbott, PhD, an exercise physiologist and nutritional biochemist in Salt Lake City, and author of The Cortisol Connection. A review published in July 2018 in the journal Medicine found that belly fat not only adds pounds but increases your risk for heart attack.
In addition, a study published in February 2017 in the European Journal of Neurology revealed a connection between belly fat and ischemic stroke in women. At the same time, hormones released in response to chronic stress can prompt the loss of skeletal muscle, according to a study published in January 2014 in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. Muscle tissue is the largest calorie burner in the body, so overall metabolism drops, Dr. Talbott says.
Research has repeatedly found that social support can help decrease stress levels and thus lower the likelihood of weight gain. In a study published in May 2017 in the journal Behavior Modification, researchers found that while most first-year college students gained weight, students with lower levels of social support at the beginning of college had greater increases in body mass index .
Health3 Things This Man Did To Lose 105 Pounds
It would suggest that any method people can use to beat stress could be of benefit, Heaney said. I think the challenge is for people who are stressed often. I dont think jumping into a 30-minute yoga or Pilates class will be enough to address that.
The kinds of activities that might help are those that need 100 percent of our attention, Heaney said.
That could mean a game of tennis over running on a treadmill, for example.
“Certain activities we do are not absorbing enough to distract from stress, Heaney said. “Whereas jogging might be a good healthy sport, you can sometimes still ruminate and be stressed because it doesn’t require your sole attention.”
/9what Is Stress Belly And Ways To Get Rid Of It
We all experience stress from time to time. But prolonged stress can lead to a number of health issues, including mental and physical. One of the most common things stress leads to is stress belly. And abdominal fat as we all know is linked with serious health issues, including heart, diabetes and kidney disease. But there is a lot you can do to get rid of the stress belly. Read the article to know more.
Also Check: How To Clear Up Stress Acne
What Will I Learn In Class
You will learn to:
- stop unhelpful behaviors and patterns that cause you to gain weight,
- use simple mindfulness strategies in your day-to-day life,
- learn how to manage the stress and discomfort that comes with change, and
- approach life with more flexibility, openness, and self-compassion.
We’ll encourage you to experiment with different mindfulness strategies to relieve stress, like mindful eating, brief meditation, or connecting with others in a meaningful way.
How Much Weight Loss Is A Concern
Your body weight can regularly fluctuate, but the persistent, unintentional loss of more than 5% of your weight over 6 to 12 months is usually a cause for concern. Losing this much weight can be a sign of malnutrition, where a person’s diet doesn’t contain the right amount of nutrients.
You should pay particular attention if you experience other symptoms, such as:
- a change in your toilet habits
- an increase in illnesses or infections
Ways To Calm Your Mind And Body
By no means is this list exhaustive. Merely think of it as a jumping-off point for brainstorming. Its more important to collaboratively explore what a client feels works for them and much less important to serve as a human encyclopedia of stress-relievers.
|Quick & free|
1. Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Body composition, metabolism, sleep, psychological and eating patterns of overtraining syndrome: Results of the EROS study . J Sports Sci. 2018 Aug 36:190210.
2. Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, Dejager J, Taylor SE. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 2010 May 72:35764.
3. Grammatikopoulou MG, Gkiouras K, Markaki A, Theodoridis X, Tsakiri V, Mavridis P, et al. Food addiction, orthorexia, and food-related stress among dietetics students. Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Aug 23:45967.
But What Can Walking Do To Reduce Stress
Taking regular walks outside in the open, especially greenery areas, has been shown to reduce stress, low mood and anxiety. If you can take a walk after eating this could benefit you even further as it has been shown walking after a meal can help normalise sugar levels in the blood.
Walking is an easy habit to add into your life to help you reduce stress to lose weight.
Don’t Miss: How To Stop Stress Breakouts
Factors That Can Imbalance The Stress Hormone Cortisol
To understand how to right the cortisol imbalance, you have to understand how it gets that way in the first place.
There is the obvious source of cortisol imbalance:
- Psychological Stressors, things in your life that cause you stress like deadlines, arguments, aging parents, adult children, whatever it is.
As a side note, many women I talk to can trace weight regainafter losing to a stressful time in life. From a cortisol imbalance perspective this makes sense your body is flooded with stress hormones, cravings hit, and your body starts to store fat.
And then there are the less obvious sources of body stress:
- Inflammation in your body from conditions like autoimmune disease, arthritis, allergies, asthma, heart disease and more.
- Blood sugar imbalance, whether that be from pre-diabetes or diabetes, or just from eating high-sugar or refined carbohydrate foods often.
- Sleep deprivation. A recent meta analysis suggests for every hour of sleep you are deprived you eat an additional 385 calories.
- Menopause. Going through the hormonal change can raise cortisol levels, not to mention menopausal years tend to be more stressful for women as they navigate careers, relationships, aging parents, and everything else life throws at them.
- And finally, the very act of losing weight can result in elevated cortisol. Restrictive dieting like low calorie diets, keto, and fasting have been found to increase cortisol.
Choose Your Fats Wisely
If stress causes your body to burn less of the fat you eat , aim to include some healthy fat in your mealsbut avoid doubling up. For example, many clients tell me they order a healthy salad for lunch, but the toppings include both olive oil and avocado. Or they might snack on nuts alongside popcorn cooked in oil.
I’m not saying you should eat low-fat meals fat is important for satiety and it’s one of your body’s key building blocks. But to keep it in balance, choose only one high-fat item per meal. For example, if you want avocado on your salad, dress your greens with balsamic vinegar rather than an oil-based vinaigrette.
Read Also: What Are The Effects Of Stress On The Body
Mix And Match Your Stress Relief
Your first line of defense is to manage the stress thats causing that natural response. Of course, thats easier said than done, especially right now.
After all, its not like you can magically eliminate all the stress in your life. And the last thing you need is to be stressed about being stressed.
Your best bet?
Try a variety of stress relief techniques to see which ones work best for you.
Whats making you feel stressed is unique to your set of circumstances, so it makes sense that what alleviates that stress will also be tailored to you, says Sharon McDowell-Larson, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and coach at the Center for Creative Leadership.
Start playing around with different options and be aware of what works and what doesnt, McDowell-Larson adds. Often, it takes a combination of strategies.
Here are a few to try:
- If youre working from home, create a clock-out time for work.
If Youre Exercising Get Into The Habit Of Eating A Snack Afterward
Eating post-workout is the only way to restore the energy you burned while working up a sweat. Skipping a snack or small meal may seem harmless, but it can lead to unpleasant side effects like lightheadedness and low blood sugar.
Burning more calories than youre consuming can also result in unexpected weight loss.
Reach from something high in protein or healthy carbs, like:
You May Like: Can Stress Cause Heart Palpitations
Cortisol And Sugar Cravings
Cue the sugar cravings. Because sugar supplies your body with the quick energy it thinks it needs, it’s often the first thing you reach for when you’re stressed.
The downside to consuming so much sugar is that your body tends to store sugar, especially after stressful situations. This energy is stored mainly in the form of abdominal fat, which can be particularly hard to shed. And so the vicious cycle starts: get stressed, release cortisol, gain weight, crave more sugar, eat more sugar, gain more weight.
Here Are My Top 6 Fast And Easy Stress
1. Breathing Meditation
This meditation is done while sitting, so it can be done anytime, anywhere.
To practice: Exhale with a deep sigh in order to reset your diaphragm. Then breathe slowly through your nose for a count of 7, and hold your breath for a count of 7. Then for another count of 7, you exhale through your nose. Repeat this three times, and this will help calm your spirit and relax your nerves.
2. Visualization Meditation
Instead of focusing on the negative, accentuate the positive and focus your attention on what you would like to bring into your life. One of the most powerful tools to do this is visualization. By creating images in your mind and connecting emotionally with these images, you send a message to the universe that this is what you want. If creating images in your mind is difficult, create a vision board by cutting pictures out of magazines or other media that represent your goals and dreams. This is a powerful tool, so really take the time to identify what you want. When visualizing, focus on your image and the feelings it evokes for a good 3-5 minutes.
3. Gratitude Meditation
This is so simple, yet so immensely powerful. When life gives you lemons, this is the meditative equivalent of making lemonade and can stop the spiral of negative thoughts dead in their tracks.
4. Walking Meditation
5. Chewing Meditation
6. Savoring Simplicity Meditation
Still not sure where to start?
Pretty sweet, huh?
Youll also reap these benefits:
Don’t Miss: How Do I Cope With Stress
Cortisol And Stress Level Studies
Right after your body senses that the danger or pressure is no more, the cortisol level should normally start to reduce.
The other body systems that have previously been shut down should also start resuming their normal functions.
However, there are instances when the cortisol level wont just go down.
What if you undergo constant stress on a daily basis? What if you are always under a lot of pressure every day?
Well, you guessed right. Your bodys alarm button simply stays on.
The implication of this is enormous. Apart from the fact that it can impede the proper functioning of your body system, it can also lead to a host of other health-related problems.
Note! Most notable among these problems cause by cortisol is that of weight gain
Can Stress Cause Weight Gain
Youre having problems at work or at home. Youre stressed, and its beginning to show — in more ways than one. Youve noticed a bulge around your mid-section that wasnt there before. Where are these extra pounds coming from?
Read Also: Why Am I Always Stressed And Anxious
Your Bodys Fight Or Flight Response Can Speed Up Your Metabolism
When youre stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Also known as the acute stress response, this physiological mechanism tells your body it must respond to a perceived threat.
Your body readies itself by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline prepares your body for vigorous activity, but it can also minimize your desire to eat.
Meanwhile, cortisol signals for your body to temporarily suppress functions that are nonessential during a crisis. This includes your digestive, immune, and reproductive system responses.
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.
Don’t Miss: How Do I Stop Being Stressed
What Happens To The Body During Stress
The body responds to stressors with the help of the endocrine system, increasing the production of some hormones and decreasing others. This hormonal mix will be different for different types and levels of stress . So, in response to a short-term extreme, the adrenal glands produce a whole bunch of hormones, among which adrenaline dominates.
This invigorating biologically active substance when it enters the bloodstream , causes a surge of strength, increased pressure, rapid heartbeat and complete loss of appetite. Such feelings are experienced, for example, when jumping with a parachute or fleeing from danger. This condition is also called fight or flight.
Adrenaline speeds up your metabolism for a short time, because it takes a lot of energy to parachute or run fast.
It is considered that periodic testing of adrenaline surges is even useful, of course, if they are accompanied by positive emotions. Thats why we say yes to extreme episodes like skydiving, river rafting or an exciting first date.
However, frequent and prolonged exposure to stress leads to a change in the hormonal set. The body, realizing that extremity is slowed down, decides to include heavy artillery in the fight against it, where the stress hormone cortisol becomes the main weapon . This hormone in itself and in small doses is not bad either, but its long-term production leads to a negative result.
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.
Read Also: How To Stop Stressing So Much
Why Does Weight Loss Happen
When youre stressed, you can engage in behaviors other than normal, such as working without a lunch break or staying up late at the office. These disorders can worsen your bodys internal response to stress.
Your bodys fight or flight reaction can speed up your metabolism
When youre stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Also known as an acute stress response, this physiological mechanism tells your body that it must respond to a perceived threat.
Your body prepares by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline prepares your body for vigorous activity, but it can also minimize your desire to eat.
Meanwhile cortisol signals your body to temporarily suppress functions that are insignificant during a crisis. This includes your responses to the digestive, immune and reproductive systems.
Hyperstimulation can lead to gastrointestinal distress
Your body slows down digestion during the fight or flight reaction to be able to focus on how to respond to the stressor.
This can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, such as:
- stomach aches
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 Reduce Stress Incontinence
Why Do You Gain Weight When Youre Stressed
Its easy to put on weight when were stressed because we really do crave high-calorie food. And our bodies release stress hormones that make it REALLY hard to lose weight.
High stress causes appetite changes by increasing epinephrine and cortisol levels in your blood.
This throws off a hormone called leptin, which regulates your appetite. Your body will signal that youre hungry even when youre not. When your leptin levels are off, it also causes cravings for high sugar and fat foods.
Also, as research shows, your body doesnt lose as much weight when youre stressed.