Why does stress cause weight gain? There are a few reasons this could be happening. Let’s dive into it!
Whether you’re dealing with stress from work or family, stress always hurts your mental and physical health. According to research, 77% of people in the U.S experience stress affecting their physical health, and 73% experience stress affecting their mental health. (stress.org/daily-life)
Stress can leave you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. You might find yourself feeling restless and lacking motivation when you are stressed out. It can also lead to physical symptoms like headaches, body pains, and fatigue.
Interestingly, stress can also cause weight gain. You might wonder how being stressed increase your body weight. When you’re under a high level of stress, your body reacts to it by producing a stress-relieving hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol, in its appropriate amount, helps your body burn fat and stabilizes your blood sugar levels. But in excess, it can lead to weight gain. High levels of cortisol increase your appetite for food, causing you to overeat. It also slows down your rate of metabolism and makes it difficult to lose weight.
As a society we tend, erroneously, to burn sugar for energy (Learn about fat adaption & intermittent fasting). When you are stressed, your body produces high-level cortisol and interprets it as a need for energy. This is why when you are stressed out, you start craving fast food and snacks. However, high amounts of sugar can lead to stored fat and increase weight gain.
Stress also causes you to pick up unhealthy habits like:
This is often called emotional eating. You might find yourself craving unhealthy foods with high calories and eating more than you usually do when stressed out. Unhealthy foods increase fat stores and lead to weight gain.
• Living A Sedentary Lifestyle:
With a busy schedule, you might find yourself sitting for long hours at your desk. Living a sedentary lifestyle means you engage in little or no physical activity, and this can cause weight gain.
• Sleeping Less:
With high amounts of stress, you are more likely to feel anxious and get less sleep. Sleep deprivation can slow down your digestive process and cause weight gain.
• Skipping Routines:
Stress can lead to skipping or failing to maintain your routines, especially in the morning. Skipping your routines can lead to a more extreme break down in your healthy patterns and habits, especially routines and habits related to your diet and fitness.
Here are a few ways to reduce stress:
•Set out time daily to engage in some physical activity for at least 20 – 30 minutes a day. This will help get rid of negative emotions.
• Get Enough Sleep:
Sleep helps relieve stress and increase productivity for the day.
• Eat Healthy Food:
Make sure you stock your home with healthy foods, making it easier to grab something healthy when stressed. Make a deliberate effort to eat a healthy and balanced meal every day.
• Stay Hydrated:
Make it a habit to drink lots of water every day. This will help detoxify your body and relieve stress.
• Regular Meditation:
Meditating helps you become more relaxed and focused. If you need help with this there are guided meditations available online as well as locally in your area.
• Do something you love. It could be reading, painting, writing, or simply taking a walk.
• Avoid excessive intake of caffeine or alcohol.
• Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast. If you’re in a hurry, grab a piece of fruit.
• Talk to family and friends.
• See a therapist if things get worse.
It can get difficult to make healthy meal decisions when you feel stressed out. Luckily, some foods can help relieve stress. Here are a few to add to your diet:
• Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and oatmeal
• Fruits high in vitamin C, like oranges
• Eggs – they are filled with lots of nutrients and are good antioxidants for stress relief
• Fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and mackerel
• Nuts – they are rich in nutrients and can help reduce stress
If you are experiencing an increased level of stress, you could see a therapist for proper diagnosis, and professional advice.