If there's one thing that unites us, it's stress.
In fact, data from a 2017 study found that 3 out of 4 people said they had experienced at least one symptom of stress in the past month.
Unfortunately, all that excess stress can lead to weight gain. And whether the extra weight is the result of overeating and unhealthy food choices, or your body's response to increased cortisol levels, controlling stress is a priority if you want to prevent stress-related weight gain. .
What stress does to your body
You may not notice it at first, but stress can have a noticeable effect on your body. Whether it's tense muscles, headaches, or feeling irritated, overwhelmed, and out of control, stress affects your physical, mental, and emotional health.
In many cases, you will immediately feel the effects of stress. But there are other ways your body responds to stress, such as weight gain, that may take time to be noticed.
According to Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight loss physician, your body responds to stress by increasing cortisol levels, which prepares the body to "fight or flight." Cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands, increases in response to threat. When you no longer perceive a threat, cortisol levels return to normal.
But if the stress is still present, you may experience cortisol overexposure, which Seltzer says is a problem since cortisol is also a major appetite stimulant.
"That's why so many people react to stress by opting for comfort foods," he explains.
And to make matters worse, Seltzer also points out that excess calories consumed in the high cortisol setting seem to be preferentially deposited toward the middle.
What's more, a 2015 study showed that our bodies metabolize more slowly under stress.
The study found that participating women who reported one or more stressors in the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than unstressed women.
To arrive at this figure, the researchers asked the women about stressful events before giving them a high-fat meal to eat. After finishing the meal, the women wore masks that measured their metabolism by calculating the inhaled and exhaled airflow of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Not only did this show a slowing down of their metabolism, but the results also showed that stressed women had higher insulin levels. The researchers concluded that the 104 fewer calories burned could add almost 5 kg per year.
What are the risks of stress and weight gain?
When stress peaks or becomes difficult to manage, more serious and long-term health consequences can occur. Depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, anxiety and obesity are all linked to chronic untreated stress.
Risks associated with weight gain include:
- Higher blood pressure
- heart disease
- A cerebral vascular accident
- reproductive problems
- Decreased lung and respiratory function
- An increase in joint pain
Additionally, there is evidence of a link between obesity and certain cancers such as pancreatic, esophageal, colon, breast and kidney cancer. Finally, your mental health can take a hit. An increase in anxiety or depression can also occur when you gain weight unintentionally.
How is stress-related weight gain diagnosed?
The only way to know if your weight gain is stress-related is to see your doctor.
"This is because stress-related weight gain can only be diagnosed by carefully analyzing the history and ruling out other factors, such as low thyroid function, which may also cause weight gain," says Seltzer. .
Ways to reduce your stress that you can practice today
Stress affects us all at some point.
Some people may experience it several times a day, while others only notice it when it begins to interfere with daily tasks.
When you feel stressed, there are several small steps you can take to calm yourself down, including:
- Exercise for 20-30 minutes
- Go out and enjoy nature
- Feed yourself with healthy foods
- Cultivate social support (going out, phoning a friend)
- Remove an item from your to-do list
- Take a 10 minute break
- Ask for help from the family
- Practice mindfulness meditation
- Read a book
- Go to bed an hour earlier
- Be nice to yourself
- Saying “no” to something that can add stress
- Spend time with a pet
- Practice 10 minutes of deep breathing
- Give up caffeine and alcohol
What is the treatment for stress-related weight gain?
Treating and managing stress-related weight gain starts with a visit to your doctor's office to discuss your concerns.
After a thorough examination, they will rule out any other health issues and help you develop a plan to manage your weight and reduce stress.
A magnesium cure can greatly reduce your stress levels, indeed, magnesium is a strong ally against stress.
In addition to implementing the anti-stress steps listed above, your doctor may recommend that you work with a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in stress and weight loss. A dietitian can help you develop a balanced nutritional plan that meets your needs, including offering you fat -burning supplements, for example.
Your doctor may also suggest working with a psychologist or therapist to develop strategies for managing your stress.
And finally, your doctor may also talk to you about medication if your stress is related to chronic anxiety or depression.
What is the outlook for people suffering from stress and weight gain?
People with chronic high stress are susceptible to several health problems, including:
- heart disease
- digestive problems
- sleep deprivation
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive impairment
- The Depression
- The stroke
- Other chronic diseases
Additionally, being overweight can increase your risk of diabetes and certain cancers.
With proper treatment, including medical interventions and lifestyle modifications, you can lower your stress levels, reduce stress-related weight gain, and lower your chances of developing a long-term health problem.
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain. The good news is that there are simple and effective ways to reduce everyday stressors and, therefore, manage your weight.
Through regular exercise, healthy food choices, mindfulness meditation, and cutting down on your to-do list, you can begin to reduce stress and manage your weight.