Blog, Health & Wellbeing

Dear stress, lets break up!

Can Stress Make You Fat?

Are you finding it difficult to lose weight? Or maybe you have lost some weight but still find you have fat around your mid-section. Do you feel you’re gaining more pounds and that the weight seems to have crept on gradually over the years? If this all sounds familiar to you – then have you stopped to think that stress maybe making you fat?

Stress is a way of life in the 21st century. It is extremely difficult to have a completely stress free lifestyle. But for some people the effects of stress go beyond feelings of anxiety and discomfort. The stress can leave them feeling emotional and also impact their appetite and leave them feeling ravenously hungry. Chronic stress can lead to craving more fatty, salty and sugary foods. This then can lead to weight gain which can further lead to more stress.

When we become stressed our bodies switch into ‘fight or flight’ response. When this occurs our bodies are triggered to release various hormones, energy – a change in metabolism, blood flow and various other changes. Our neuroendocrine system activates a series of hormones whenever we feel threatened such as; Adrenaline and Cortisol. If you remain in a stress state for a prolonged amount of time chronic stress can result in a host of health dangers.

Chronic stress and cortisol can contribute to weight gain. Many turn to food for comfort and to help cope with anxiety and stress. Often, eating becomes the activity that relieves the stress (referred to as ’emotional or comfort eating’). Research also confirms this fact and many studies show that stress plays a big role in excess fat and weight gain.

“Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women.

Chronic stress and cortisol can contribute to weight gain in the following ways: 

▸ An increase in cortisol can slow your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience. 

▸ Excessive stress can lead to greater levels of abdominal fat.

▸ Emotional Eating: The Increased levels of cortisol make you crave unhealthy food and combined with excess nervous energy can often cause you to eat more than you normally would.

The good news is that there are things you can do to reverse the pattern of weight gain, reduce your stress levels and waistline at the same time. Some of these include; exercise, eat a balanced diet, get adequate sleep, avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol, try relaxation techniques i.e. meditation, Yoga, massage. Learn techniques to manage the stress.

If you find yourself chronically stressed out you should do what you can to decrease or manage your stress levels. The next step would be to follow a reduced calorie, yet balanced diet. This will combat weight gain and enable you to lose the extra pounds.

When you find yourself becoming stressed, stop and think of the possible implications that it may have on your health and weight. Adopt strategies and techniques to manage your stress. 

Don’t let stress take over your life! 

Thank you for reading!

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Dal Dhaliwal is a health and wellbeing expert, educator and special advisor on physical activity. She is also an active professional speaker and TV/ radio presenter. Dal helps entrepreneurs and professionals with their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. She consults and presents for some of the UK's leading businesses and organisations within the wellness, sports and business arena.