There’s nothing worse than feeling like pulling your hair out because there’s so much going on. Only then do you realize that the number on the scale has started to fluctuate as a result. This article will teach you how weight gain and stress are linked and how to avoid stress-related weight gain during even the toughest times.
How Does Stress Affect Your Weight?
When we become stressed, our body releases the hormone adrenaline. Its main job is to fight off any threats that we’re anxious about. This response is called “fight or flight”.
Our body also releases glucose, or sugar, into our bloodstream to build up energy to tackle this threat. Once the adrenaline and blood sugar levels drop, the hormone cortisol takes over. Cortisol provides our body with energy so we can continue fighting.
Next, insulin is released to keep blood sugar levels stable. This can actually trigger our appetites and more specifically sugar cravings.
At the same time, our metabolism slows down as a way to save energy to deal with our stressors. So not only do we feel more hungry, but it’s harder to break down any food we may eat too.
Failure to manage our stress can further lead to other unhealthy behaviors that indirectly affect weight gain.
Emotional eating is also a popular way to deal with stress. You may feel tempted to reach for a pint of ice cream or bag of potato chips after a big argument because of the dopamine response we get from eating delicious, high-calorie foods.
Our brain searches for ways to feel pleasure during difficult or stressful times. The sugar and fat from most junk foods hit our brains differently. This triggers a more favorable feeling and greater dopamine hit than that of something like a stalk of celery.
Basically, these types of food have little nutritional payoff. They just leave you wanting more and more, making it easier to experience weight gain.
How To Prevent Stress-Related Weight Gain
When you’re feeling stressed, your body hangs onto fat in order to preserve energy. Exercising allows you to use energy that can burn off excess calories, improve cardiovascular health and increase endorphin levels, which can fight off pain and stress.
In fact, studies have shown that exercise can also increase your threshold for stress. As you push yourself physically and handle physiological stress, your ability to handle psychological stress increases. So not only can exercising help you lose stress-related weight gain, but it can also combat stress by reducing levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Since we often reach for food when experiencing high levels of stress, you’re better off leaning into this feeling rather than fighting it.
Cooking healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods is a great way to dopamine boost without depriving yourself of all nutritional value. You can easily cut out added calories simply by swapping out a few ingredients for healthier counterparts.
Staying hydrated is a big component in keeping up your satiety level. Drinking plenty of water will help you avoid confusing the feeling of thirst for hunger, which can help reduce unnecessary snacking.
And since drinking water physically fills up space in your stomach, your appetite decreases while reducing your thirst. It’s a win-win! You can even add flavor enhancers to your water to mix things up. Click here for tips on how to hit your hydration goals.
Sleep is extremely important in maintaining a good metabolism. Making sleep a priority will fight off stress-related weight gain.
Try establishing a nighttime wind-down routine to help you fall asleep at a decent time and get a full night’s rest as often as possible. It will also help prevent you from eating any late-night meals that are sure to add a few pounds around the waistline.
Not only can stress release hormones that can cause weight gain, it often causes behaviors that make it harder to lose or maintain weight. Learning how to manage the stressors in your life will not only have a significant impact on your mental health but your physical health too!