Mental HealthWeight Management

Is Emotional Stress Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals?

Stress has a significant effect on your mind and body.

But do you know that it can be the main culprit causing your weight gain? Scientific studies have proved that chronic stress can contribute to weight gain in different ways.

From impairing your metabolism to boosting the production of fat cells in your body, the stress hormones can create havoc in your system. Read on to understand the impact of emotional stress on weight gain!

Also Read: Does Eating Late at night make you gain weight?

Stress and weight gain: Impact of stress on your body

While momentary stress is very important for your survival, chronic stress can be devastating. It increases the level of cortisol hormones in your body. This tightens your muscles, triggers headache and pain, and wrecks up your entire system.

Ayurveda has identified and spoken about the effects of stress on physical, mental, and emotional health for centuries. And now modern science is establishing an association of chronic stress with serious disorders like diabetes, obesity, cancer, and more!

Also Read: Ways to beat middle-age weight gain

Stress and Weight Gain: How your body reacts to stress?

Stress is a very common emotion and it’s been in existence since ancient times. We all have experienced stress at some point in life. But not all stress is bad, only the ones that linger are bad. 

Usually, in a stressful situation, your nervous system responds by releasing adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones. These hormones prepare your body to tackle the threat. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breathing becomes rapid and all the senses are heightened. 

When stress is momentary, the levels of cortisol return to normal when the threat is tackled. But in the case of chronic stress, the body is overexposed to this hormone cortisol. This can result in an array of health issues over time ranging from diabetes, depression, blood pressure, gastritis, headache, anxiety, infertility, and even cancer. 

But most of all stress is one of the biggest contributors to obesity! 

Also Read: Stop Emotional Eating with these 9 proven tips

How does emotional stress cause weight gain?

1. Stress stimulates your appetite

Studies found that cortisol is a significant appetite stimulant. That’s why you are tempted to turn to their comfort food when you are stressed. Sugar cravings also increase under constant stress. This is because sugar is a quick source of energy that your body thinks needs to fight the stressor. Did you know ice cream and chocolates are the most commonly consumed comfort foods in stress?

Also Read: Ashwagandha for stress, anxiety and social phobia

2. Stress disrupts your food processing cycle.

Stress can affect your vagus nerve. This in turn affects the digestion, absorption, and metabolization of food in your body. This disruption can result in inflammation which is a potential danger. Further studies also revealed that the excess calories consumed due to high cortisol preferentially gets deposited around the waist or belly.

3. Stress slows your metabolism

A 2015 study found that stress can slow down your metabolism. Another study found that excess cortisol can lead to lower testosterone levels in your body. This may result in decreased muscle mass and increased calorie deposition. Further, stress can disrupt your sleep cycle which again contributes to a slower metabolism.

4. Stress boosts your fat cell production

Some researchers found that chronic stress can boost fat cell production in the body. This is attributed to a steroid hormone called glucocorticoids, which is produced in abundance under stress. This high level of glucocorticoids hormones can boost the production of fat cells in your body.

5. Stress can increase the levels of insulin

Recent research found that stress not only slows down your metabolism but also increases the level of insulin in your body. A study found that women who reported one or more stressors burned 104 few calories in a 24-hour cycle. The same study also revealed that stressed women had higher insulin levels, a hormone that contributes to fat storage.

6. The time of stress matters too

That’s right! Stress is bad but being stressed at night is worse than being stressed during the day. This is because of the steroid hormone glucocorticoids. During the day when you get stressed the hormone glucocorticoids wax and wane continuously. Your body can ignore these short-term fluctuations.

But if the levels of this hormone remain high constantly then the entire system is wrecked up. And going to bed with heightened glucocorticoids levels can result in messed-up circadian rhythms. That’s why so many relaxation techniques focus on de-stressing before bedtime.

Tips to control emotional stress and control weight

Studies have proved several relaxation techniques can help in managing emotional stress. Exercising or walking for 30 minutes can trigger the release of happy hormones in our body which is effective in combating stress and anxiety. Similarly, meditation, yoga, massage, aromatherapy can also help in easing your stress. 

However, for people who are constantly stressed, walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes might not be enough to ward off the stress. For such people, opting for activities that require 100 percent of undivided attention can help. Simple examples include playing badminton or tennis can help in battling chronic stress.

Diet too plays a crucial role in managing stress. Several adaptogenic foods can aid in bringing down stress levels. Following a proper dietary regime can also help in achieving the desired weight goals. 

Apart from these tips, several studies have concluded that having strong social relationships can help in battling stress. This also leads to improved quality of life and higher life expectancy.

Your Takeaway!

It is scientifically proven that emotional stress can lead to weight gain, especially around the waist and belly. However, it is difficult to diagnose stress-related obesity just by looking at the mirror. It’s best to consult a doctor if you know that you are constantly stressed or if you observe a sudden change in your weight. 

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