Increasingly science is showing a strong connection between stress and weight gain. The body’s response to stress is regulated by a cascade of hormones, all designed to help prepare for flight or fight. When first confronted with a stressor, the adrenal glands produce hormones that trigger the release of sugar and fat from storage to provide the quick energy needed for intense physical effort. If the brain continues to perceive stress, another hormone called cortisol is released. When you are in a state of long term stress, elevated cortisol levels can cause several physical and behavioral changes.
Physical Changes Caused by Stress
Cortisol can cause people to eat more in an effort to replenish the resources (sugar and fat) the body released in the initial stress response, thus contributing to increased accumulation of fat tissue and weight gain.
Not only do stressed people eat more, but cortisol contributes specifically to sugar cravings. Because sugar provides the body with quick energy, it is one of the things stressed people are most prone to eat.
Additionally cortisol decreases metabolism, leading to the tendency to eat more calories while burning fewer calories at the same time.
Physiologically, the cortisol released by stress can trap people in a frustrating and unhealthy cycle of sugar cravings, overeating, and weight gain.
Behavioral Changes Caused by Stress
In stressful situations, people don’t have the time or mental energy to prepare healthy meals, opting instead for convenience or comfort foods.
People who are stressed tend to skip meals altogether, leading to binging and uncontrolled eating later.
Stress can cause people to forget or not have time for important health habits like drinking enough water.
People who are stressed have a harder time getting enough exercise. Exercising regularly is an important way to maintain mental health, cardiovascular health, and a healthy weight.
Stress can lead to sleep disruptions, which in itself causes weight gain and increased cortisol levels. In addition, when tired, people find they lack the energy and will power to make better lifestyle choices.
In conclusion, for people having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, looking for ways to reduce and manage stress is an important step to achieving their weight loss goals.
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