Living in today’s world means being under stress of some sort on an almost-daily basis. Stress manifests itself in the body in a number of ways, such as headaches and high blood pressure. However, did you know that prolonged stress also leads to weight gain?
Not only do we tend to crave foods that are high in sugars and unhealthy fats during times of stress, we also experience fluctuations in the levels of some hormones that can lead to weight gain.
The following are a few of the hormones that are affected by stress.
Regularly elevated stress levels in the body will trigger an overproduction of the hormone cortisol, which is linked with the buildup of belly fat. Cortisol causes the body to begin hoarding fat in the abdominal area. This visceral fat ends up surrounding your organs and may lead to a host of health problems, like inflammation and insulin resistance.
The more belly fat that is accumulated, the more cortisol is released, because of the presence of an enzyme that triggers active cortisol. Thus, a vicious cycle of stress and fat production begins.
Serotonin is the body’s “feel good” hormone. Often, during times of stress, people find themselves craving foods high in carbohydrates, which raises the body’s serotonin levels and temporarily makes them feel better. This can begin a cycle of self-medicating with unhealthy food choices in order to get back the feeling of comfort from the serotonin.
When we are under stress, our bodies also may process food differently than it would under normal conditions. When stressed, our nerve cells release a molecule called neuropeptide Y, which encourages the accumulation of fat. Unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and polyunsaturated fats can also promote an increase in the release of neuropeptide Y.
Ways to break the cycle of stress and weight gain
The good news is that it is never too late to start a healthy habit. You can always start today to find new ways to deal with stress and avoid weight gain. Here are some ideas to get you started in the right direction:
- Learn to identify the warning signs of stress on your body, like increased heart rate, anxiety, irritability, apprehension, and muscle tension.
- Don’t eat unless you are hungry, but don’t skip meals either.
- Recognize unhealthy comfort foods that you are likely to turn to, and eliminate them from your home.
- Begin a regular exercise habit or activity.
- Always get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
- Look into learning new relaxation skills like stretching and yoga, massage, and meditation.
-The Alternative Daily