Stress and Weight Loss

Stress and Weight Loss

In a world full of deadlines, appointments, and other obligations, becoming stressed seems inevitable. For that matter, being healthy can even be a stressor itself. Which can really make it tough to stay on or get a weight loss journey started.

In the following, I will talk about some of the side-effects that stress can have on your body, namely how it affects weight loss, and will speak to some strategies to help fight those ill-effects of stress.

To begin, according to the Harvard school of public health, there are 3 forms of stress; acute (brief event), acute episodic (frequent acute events), and chronic (persistent events.) We commonly experience all these forms of stress, but the body will respond to stress the same. You may have heard the term “fight or flight.” This response is due to hormones being released causing the blood to start pumping more quickly, forcing more oxygen into our cells, speeding up the heart rate, and increasing mental alertness. One of the hormones that is being release is Adrenaline (aka epinephrine.) Epinephrine is responsible for the increase in heart rate and blood pressure. If stress is not reduced, the body will release the second hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for the release of glucose into the blood and increases the brain’s use of glucose for energy. It also turns off certain systems in the body allowing the body to focus on the stress response (digestion, reproduction, and growth.)

Now that we understand a little more about what stress does to our body, lets discuss a bit more about some of the side effects this response can have on our body. During times of acute stress, these hormones can release but once stress has been reduced, the hormone levels will return to normal. Whereas, acute episodic and chronic stress, hormone levels continue to stay elevated that can lead to some health concerns such as: digestive issues, weight gain, elevated blood pressure, chest pain/heart disease, immune system problems, skin conditions, muscular pain, sleep disruption/ insomnia, infertility, and anxiety/depression.

(SIDE BAR: If you have struggled with the above issues, we encourage you to check out our Functional Health Coaching services and available Labs)

Now we know the physiological effects on the body, and some of the side effects, let’s talk about how this all affects the way we eat.

Having all the hormones being released causing the body to work harder thus naturally raising the metabolic need and increases the need for nutrients to be used (how’s that for a chain reaction?) If one does not eat a nutritious diet to begin with, this can lead to health problems down the road. When somebody is going through long term stress, often times they will reach out for some food that is comforting to them. Often these are processed and high in calories and fats and low in nutrients. (let’s read that again…)

Individuals feeling stressed may feel that they don’t have “enough time” to prepare nutritious food or even skip meals. Another big factor is that stress can affect sleep. Waking up frequently leads to fatigue throughout the day. A lot of times, when feeling fatigue, we reach for some form of caffeine. Depending on your preferred caffeine source, like designer coffees or energy drinks, these can have a lot of sugar and calories. As if the nutrients (or lack there-of) weren’t bad enough, depending on the amount, the caffeine can continue the poor sleep schedule creating a vicious cycle.

During acute stress, adrenaline will suppress the appetite. During chronic stress and when cortisol levels are elevated, one may experience craving for food with high sugar, fat, and calories. I think it goes without saying, that over consuming these types of foods will cause weight gain. Cortisol tends to favor accumulating in the belly area called central adiposity and is associated to insulin resistance that can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Finally, here’s the good news, and some ways to fight stress and keep some of these barriers from getting in the way of the best version of yourself!

Stick to a healthy, nutritious diet. Even in times of stress, fueling your body with what it needs, gives you a better opportunity to prevent weight gain. When those stressful times do present themselves, practice mindful eating. Instead of reaching for something high in calories/fat, look for the better option.

Regular exercise can also be a great strategy for stress management! Keeping your body moving helps regulate hormone levels and burn excess calories.

Another things to consider can be focusing on the mental health portion of it. Counseling, meditation, and practicing work/life balance can really help with reducing stress or at least teach coping mechanisms to reduce risk of stress reactions.

Last thing to focus on is sleep. Good quality sleep. Deep sleep helps repair and grow tissues and supports a healthy immune system.

In conclusion, we’ve talked about the physiological effects stress has on the body, the effects those have on the body, and some ideas to fight off weight gain and stress reducing options. Stress can make you feel stuck and unhappy with yourself but there are ways to get out of that rut and work towards a better, happier you with just a little bit of self-work and consistency!

Keep Pushing!! And if you need help, we’re here for you!

In the meantime, LET’S GROW!!

The Success Team