Is stress making (and keeping) you fat?
Stress and anxiety are strong triggers for weight gain.
Stress is not only a fact of life for a lot of us, it’s also a fact of fat!
“Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add kilos,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women.
Our bodies respond to all stress in the same way. Our brain instructs our cells to release stress hormones – adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee, and cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy (even though you haven’t actually used much of that released energy.)
And that makes you feel hungry: as your body keeps releasing cortisol while the stress continues you find it hard to satisfy that hunger.
So the cravings start, and they aren’t for salad or veggies!
“Instead, we crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension,” explains Elissa Epel, PhD, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco.
As this soothing effect is addictive, you’ll start to crave sugary, fattening foods whenever you’re stressed or anxious.
Cortisol also encourages your body to store fat—especially visceral fat, which surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels leading to heart disease and diabetes.
If you reduce stress and anxiety you’ll also reduce your cortisol levels. This will make it easier to control your cravings, achieve and maintain your ideal weight and improve your health.
These simple habits will help you to control stress and anxiety – try them and see which works best for you.
Moving your muscles is an effective, instant stress reliever. It actually fools your body into thinking you’re escaping the source of your stress! Stretching, a short walk or some push ups will help your blood circulate more quickly, transporting the cortisol to your kidneys and flushing it out of your system.
Eat slowly at meals
Under stress, we tend to scarf down even healthy food. Slowing down, savoring each bite, and paying attention to feelings of fullness may lower cortisol levels along with decreasing the amount of food you eat.
Research shows that constant dieting can make cortisol levels rise as much as 18%. When your cortisol levels rise, your blood sugar rapidly rises and then drops. When your brain is deprived of sugar—its main fuel—self-control takes a nosedive, and your willpower doesn’t stand a chance. If you want to reduce stress and lose weight quickly and easily by making smart choices instead of depriving yourself, Radiance could be just what you need! It’s a 28 day program to transform your life from the inside out…from the way you eat to the way you manage stress and take care of yourself. Learn more here.
Give in to cravings‚ a little
If you’re stressed and craving sweet or salty snacks, it’s okay to give in.
“It’s much better to indulge in a small way and cut off your cortisol response before it gets out of control,” says Epel. “Have a piece of chocolate. You will feel better. Just stop at one.”
And don’t beat yourself up over it! Look at what triggered your craving and deal with that instead.
Reduce your caffeine
Stress combined with caffeine raises cortisol levels higher. A study by the University of Oklahoma found that consuming the equivalent of 2½ to 3 cups of coffee while under mild stress boosted cortisol by about 25%—and kept it up for 3 hours. Drink 6 cups throughout the day and your cortisol levels will jump by 30% and stay high all day long! If you’re a stress eater you might want to replace coffee with a herbal tea – try Chamomile as it reduces stress.