Stress and Weight Loss:
What’s the Connection?
It’s inevitable. Stress is pretty much a part of modern life. Whether you’re dealing with pressures at work, relationship issues, or L.A. traffic, stress is hard to escape. But it’s not entirely bad. The physical response to stress causes a reaction called the flight or fight response, which has a useful purpose.
Flight or fight
During a stressful situation, physiological changes occur, and hormones are released that heighten your senses. The response evolved to help humans survive. If someone sensed danger, they either fought or hightailed it out of there.
Back in caveman days, when a predator was chasing someone, the flight or fight response sharpened their senses and put a pep in their step, so that they could fight or escape and survive.
How it works is, you perceive a stressful situation, so your central nervous system sends messages to the rest of your body telling it “danger” and all systems are go. Your body tenses, pupils dilate, and heart rate increases.
Even today, that flight or fight response can be helpful. The trouble is your body can overreact to stressors that are not dangerous. Stress can also build over time. Too much stress can have negative consequences on everything from your mood to weight loss.
How stress can influence your body weight
When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol as part of the flight or fight response. Cortisol is released to provide your body with energy. But if too much cortisol is released due to chronic stress, it can affect your ability to lose weight and reach your fitness goals.
One way cortisol affects weight loss is that it can cause an increase in glucose production, which may lead to increased blood sugar levels. The extra glucose may be stored as fat, especially visceral fat, which is around your organs.
Cortisol also affects other hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, which both play a role in your appetite. Ghrelin helps you feel hungry, and leptin sends signals you’re full. If you produce too much cortisol, ghrelin may increase while leptin decrease. This shift causes you to feel hungrier, which may be why some people overeat when they are stressed out.
Beating stress-related weight gain
Although it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all stress, you can find ways to reduce it and prevent stress-related weight gain. Consider some of the following:
Exercise is one of the best ways to combat weight gain, decrease stress, and improve your mood. Find some type of cardio you enjoy, and along with strength training, try to make exercise a regular part of your day.
Irregular sleep can also cause an increase in cortisol. Although everyone’s sleep needs are different, aim for seven or eight hours a night.
Stress reduction techniques
Consider giving yoga or meditation a try. If that’s not for you, listen to music, talk with a friend, or take your dog for a walk.
Many of us live in a fast-paced world with 24/7 access to texts, email, and voicemail. While that may be convenient, it also means you might be trapped in a never-ending cycle of communication. Some of us have forgotten how to relax and be still. Turn off your phone and resist the urge to check email, text, or Facebook, even if it’s just for a little while. Remember to set aside a little time every day just to breathe and chill out.
Looking for other ideas to manage stress and improve your weight loss? The personal trainers at Elite Triangle Fitness can work with you to help you achieve your health and fitness goals whatever they may be. Contact us for a free consultation today!