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Relation between Stress and Weight Gain
Can stress cause weight gain? There is often an unknown factor relating to weight gain, which we don’t pay as much attention to, and that factor is stress. If one is constantly in a state of stress, then it is definitely a strong link to gaining weight. When someone faces stressful situations, our body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
It essentially regulates bodily processes, such as metabolism, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and the nervous system. The hunger hormones such as leptin and ghrelin are also affected, which have important roles in the function of weight and appetite.
The Role of Cortisol
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, rises when you are stressed. Cortisol effects can lead to you overeating. In these instances, insulin levels increase, which leads to your blood sugar levels dropping, which leaves you craving fatty, sugary food.
This is the reason why eating can be something that we do to ease our stress and be a source of happiness. Cortisol and weight gain are something that one needs to be aware of, as high cortisol and weight gain are related to each other.
The body releases other chemicals in response to eating ‘feel-good’ foods, which have a direct calming effect. This is how cortisol and weight are related. The more the level of stress, the higher the level of cortisol, and the higher the level of cortisol the more likely we are to crave junk food, and therefore weight gain.
Reducing your cortisol levels
Although it is next to impossible to completely get rid of stressors in your life, there could be smaller things you can do to help. Try to avoid smaller unnecessary stressors in your life.
Reduce things in your life that give you smaller amounts of stress, hang out with people who don’t stress you out and are generally nicer to hang out with, don’t commit to things you can't/don't want to do, and other small things.
Try and look into things that are more overarching in terms of stress, such as your relationships. Look into things that modulate stress, such as you, meditation, therapy even! See things that work for you, what works for another person may not work for you, and vice versa.
Getting into food that is more nutrient-dense is also something that can help. Foods that have a lot of antioxidants, omega 3, and vitamin D are good. Fermented foods and fibers are good for this purpose.
How do I address stress-related weight gain in the best ways?
In most weight loss cases, it usually takes more than a quick regimen to lose weight easily. Spending more time outside in the open, mindfulness practices such as meditation, exercising, journaling, and calming breathing exercises are very helpful. Having a decent social life is also something that is known to keep stress at bay, along with understanding how you can regulate the stress factor in your life to ensure a better relation to weight gain.
What is Chronic Stress and why does it impact weight?
Stress which is chronic in nature can impact weight in a number of ways. The hormonal imbalances which are caused by the rise in cortisol levels cause a fluctuation in blood sugar and hunger hormone levels as well. We need to be wary of how increased blood sugar for a long period of time can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Imbalances can lead to the risk of binge eating. One reaches for more stress-relieving foods which one may not usually do when one is not under stressful circumstances. Junk food is welcome but only in moderation, and these indulgent cravings are on the high when stress levels are also high.
Tips to Ease Your Stress
At the end of the day, there are only so many factors you can work on- but doing these can definitely help in coping with the stress levels (which we know are linked with weight gain). Getting into any type of physical exercise is beneficial and fun at the same time. Even going on small walks with friends can be helpful. Breathing exercises are also known to help in cases of anxiety and stress.
Sleep well - We know that a lot of our problems stem from the fact that we don’t get enough sleep, and try going to sleep around the same time every night to maintain a solid sleep cycle. Laughter has been known to relieve stress. It increases endorphins, increases blood flow, and also relaxes your muscles.
Spend more time watching content that is funny, and even better, spend time with people who are good company and have fun with them! Try and identify smaller stressors and triggers, and do what you can do to avoid them. If the idea of getting late for work stresses you out, then wake up 15 minutes ahead of time so you feel at ease. If possible, spend some time with some animals.
Animals like dogs and cats can help you feel good by just being around them. Volunteer at things that you are passionate about. That way you will be able to give back and feel good about it too.
Lastly, it is easier said than done, but try and avoid stress-causing foods when you’re feeling stressed. Reach for something comparatively healthy if possible!
- Can stress and depression cause weight gain?
Ans. Stress and depression have been shown to have an influence on weight gain within a person. This is also influenced by the stress hormone Cortisol.