Stressed out? Here's how it could impact weight loss

It can make you engage in unhealthy behaviours, which can cause weight gain

By Dr. Siddhant Bhargava

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Published: Thu 21 Jul 2022, 5:59 PM

The link between stress and weight gain is striking. Stress impacts our ability to maintain a healthy body. It prevents us from losing weight due to factors, such as high levels of the stress hormone, unhealthy stress-induced behaviours, or a combination of both. Learning the connection between stress and weight loss may help you address the root causes and break the cycle of stress and weight gain.

Hormonal changes related to stress

Medical research suggests that the stress hormone cortisol may lead to weight gain. During times of increased stress, our adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, and as a result, glucose is released into your bloodstream. This triggers an increase in heart rate and energy levels, which provide the body the energy it needs to prepare against a potentially harmful situation. The adrenaline high wears off when the threat subsides leading to a dip in blood sugar spike; this is when cortisol comes into action to replenish the energy supply.

We also tend to consume more sugar, which provides the body with the quick energy it thinks it needs when we are stressed. The body utilises as much as it needs and stores the rest in form of abdominal fat which one may find hard to shed. In addition to this, even if we are not eating foods high in fat and sugar while in stress, cortisol slows down our metabolism, which makes it difficult to lose weight.

Stress and unhealthy habits

Stress can also make you engage in unhealthy behaviours, which can cause weight gain. Some of those behavioural patterns are mentioned below:

a) Emotional eating: Stress seems to affect our food preferences. Numerous studies have concluded that prolonged, chronic stress can lead to hormonal changes that may increase your appetite and cause cravings for higher-calorie comfort foods like ice cream, chips, and pizza. While such foods might give us temporary relief from stress but eventually it makes healthy weight management more difficult.

b) Inactivity: Stressed people tend to be less active. The increase in stress levels decreases our exercise minutes and we may not find the strength to exercise with all the tasks on our schedule.

c) Skipping meals: Inconsistent eating patterns may contribute to weight gain. On a stressful day, our schedule may prevent us from eating a meal, which may lead to cravings and overeating later, which can cause weight gain.

d) Sleep disturbance: People who are stressed experience sleep disturbance. While some people sleep more than usual, others suffer from insomnia and restless sleep. And both situations cause weight gain. When we feel fatigued and are not well rested, hormones tell our bodies to consume processed foods over healthy foods.

Prevent and combat weight gain due to stress

Maintain a routine. Make healthy behaviour a habit and combat stress-related weight changes. Below mentioned are some of the most effective strategies that can prevent and combat weight gain due to stress:

a) Eat healthier: Eat foods that can have a noticeable impact on the way our body feels. It is recommended to stick to whole foods such as fruits and veggies. Have oranges and carrots, they contain immune-boosting antioxidants; eat leafy vegetables packed with vitamin B to regulate nerves; eat whole grains and food packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Practise mindful eating. Focus on what you are eating. It will help lower stress and promote weight loss. Next time when you eat a meal, enjoy it without any distraction.

b) Make exercise a priority: It plays a crucial role in stress reduction and weight management. Even a 20-minutes brisk walk every day can make our blood circulate more quickly, transporting the cortisol to the kidneys and flushing it out of the body.

c) Add stress-relief strategies: Adding stress relievers such as practising yoga, listening to music, going for a short walk, etc. into our daily routine can reduce the cortisol levels in the body and help us manage weight.

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