The Big Connection Between Stress and Weight Gain
Did you know that excessive stress can actually lead you to gain weight? There are multiple ways that stress will lead you to gain weight.
These areas include a growing level of cortisol, emotional eating and food cravings due to stress, and a change in blood sugar levels, according to the publication Very Well Mind.
Stress and Weight Gain Involve Cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released when your body is undergoing the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol causes you to crave less healthy food options such as sugary snacks and fat-filled meals, which will likely lead you to gain weight.
When our body feels a threat due to stress such as a looming deadline at work, cortisol is meant to provide the energy your body needs to manage the threat, according to the MyFitnessPal Blog.
Have you ever felt like you gain weight even when you eat the same meals day in and day out? If you have too much cortisol in your system, this can slow down your metabolism and make you gain weight much faster.
If you are feeling too much tension, your cortisol levels are likely to rise, reports WebMD. This can lead you to overeat and binge on sugary or fatty foods.
In addition, higher levels of cortisol can lead your insulin levels to rise and your blood sugar rates to decline. This can, once again, lead you to crave more sweet and savory foods instead of choosing healthier options.
Foods like candy, ice cream, or a hot dog can have a calming effect if you are undergoing severe stress. However, there are healthier ways to reduce stress such as yoga and meditation, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Clearly, stress can lead to serious food cravings and emotional eating, which could lead you to gain weight.
Food Cravings and Emotional Eating
Stress and gaining weight often involve emotional eating and severe food cravings. When you are under stress, you’re more likely to grab a pint of ice cream from your freezer instead of eating some carrot sticks or an apple.
According to the publication Positive Health Wellness, people who are stressed out are more likely to crave salty, sugary, and fatty food products. Craving these unhealthy foods and giving into these cravings will more likely than not add more pounds to your figure.
Emotional eating also involves using food to obtain comfort even when you are not hungry, explains WebMD. People who focus on eating some chocolate cake or potato chips when they’re feeling depressed are more likely to end up gaining weight.
Luckily, there are multiple ways for you to break the cycle of emotional eating. The ways to reduce your stress or anxiety are outlined below.
- Meditate and try taking a deep breath
- Listen to music and read a book with a positive message
- Go on a walk or exercise
- Talk to your friends or family
- Complete some housework or do some gardening
If you have too much stress and are having problems with emotional eating, you may want to talk to your primary care doctor and consider seeing a therapist to better understand ways you can reduce your anxiety. If you are undergoing stress at work and you are in recovery from and addiction, speaking to your counselor is also very important.
Stress and hormonal changes can also lead your blood sugar levels to fluctuate.
Stress Affects Blood Sugar Levels
The way stress affects your blood sugar levels is through the hormonal changes that take place. According to the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, hormones like cortisol, glucagon, and adrenaline play a major role in changing blood sugar levels.
Under stress, these hormonal levels rise while insulin levels decline. More glucose ends up in the bloodstream. These issues could lead you to develop diabetes and may make it harder for you to control your weight.
High levels of stress for long periods of time can change your blood sugar levels, which may lead to fatigue, mood swings, and even health problems such as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia involves having high blood sugar levels, which could lead you to develop diabetes.
This condition includes having glucose levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Typical symptoms include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
In addition, too much stress can lead to a metabolic syndrome, which can lead to more serious medical problems such as heart attacks and diabetes. If you have been diagnosed with a metabolic syndrome, you have a cluster of different medical conditions including:
- High blood pressure
- Extra body fat around the waist
- Elevated blood sugar levels
- Fluctuating cholesterol or triglyceride levels
Clearly, stress can lead to changes in your blood sugar levels as well as weight gain. While there are very clear ways in which stress can lead you to put on too many pounds, there are excellent ways you can reduce stress and lose weight.
How to Reduce Stress and Lose Weight
First, you will need to start working on reducing your stress levels through healthy ways. HealthLine.com outlined a number of ways you can manage your stress.
- Spend time with family and friends
- Watch a funny movie or comedy show
- Avoid procrastinating at work or school
- Take part in yoga classes
- Listen to calming music
- Try some deep breathing exercises
These are some simple and healthy ways for you to reduce your stress levels. There are also several key strategies to lose weight through healthy ways. WebMD outlined several of these steps.
- Limit sugar in your diet
- Reduce the portion size of your meals
- Drink more water throughout the day
- Read labels on food you buy at grocery stores
- Reduce your carbohydrate intake and include whole grains
- Include lean protein and vegetables in your diet
- Take part in physical activity
There is clearly a strong link between stress and gaining weight. The ways that stress leads you to gain weight include an increase in cortisol and hormonal changes, food cravings or emotional eating, and fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.
However, we hope the solutions above for reducing stress and losing weight will help you lead a happier and healthier life going forward.