Yes, stress is a contributor for weight gain! For some people, the effects go beyond feelings of anxiety and discomfort. For these people, stress can mean facing each day ravenously
hungry — and adding weight gain to their list of worries. “While the immediate . . . response to acute stress can be a temporary loss of appetite, more and more we are coming to recognize
that for some people, chronic stress can be tied to an increase in appetite — and stress-induced weight gain,” says Elissa Epel, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at
the University of California at San Francisco. The hormones released when we’re stressed include adrenalin — which gives us instant energy — along with corticotrophin releasing hormone
(CRH) and cortisol. While high levels of adrenalin and CRH decrease appetite at first, the effects usually don’t last long. And cortisol works on a different timetable. Its job is to help us replenish
our body after the stress has passed, and it hangs around a lot longer. “It can remain elevated, increasing your appetite and ultimately driving you to eat more,” says Epel.
Following those stress signals can lead not only to weight gain, but also the tendency to store what is called “visceral fat” around the midsection. These fat cells that lie deep within the abdomen
have been linked to an increase in both diabetes and heart disease. To further complicate matters, the “fuel” our muscles need during “fight or flight ” is sugar — one reason we crave carbohydrates
when we are stressed, says endocrinologist Riccardo Perfetti, MD, PhD. “To move the sugar from our blood to our muscles requires insulin, the hormone that opens the gates to the cells and lets
the sugar in,” says Perfetti, who directs the outpatient diabetes program at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. And high levels of sugar and insulin set the stage for the body to store fat.
“So people who are under stress, metabolically speaking, will gain weight for that very reason,”. As much as we would like to blame all our weight gain on stress, experts say that eating in
response to stress can also be a learned habit — one that’s merely encouraged by brain chemistry. “Under stress, there’s an impulse to do something, to move, and often, eating becomes
the activity that relieves the stress. It’s easy to do and it’s comforting,” says David Ginsberg, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Behavioral Health Program at New York University Medical Center.
Now for the good news: Whether your urge to eat is driven by hormones or habits or a combination of both, research shows there are ways to interrupt the cycle, break the stress and stop the weight gain.
Here’s what the experts recommend:
1. Exercise. This is the best stress-buster — and also happens to be good for you in lots of other ways. “It not only burns calories, when you move your body, even with a simple activity such as walking,
you begin to produce a cascade of biochemicals, at least some of which counter the negative effects of stress hormones — as well as control insulin and sugar levels,” says Talbott.
2. Eat a balanced diet — and never skip a meal. “Eat breakfast — and try to consume six small rather than three huge meals a day, with foods from all the food groups,” Ginsberg tells WebMD. This helps keep blood sugar levels steady, which in turn put a damper on insulin production and eventually reduce cortisol levels — all helping to control appetite and weight.
3. Don’t lose sleep, over your weight problems or your stress — When we don’t get enough rest, cortisol levels rise, making us feel hungry and less satisfied with the food we do eat, Ginsberg says.
4. Devote time to relaxation — Because it works much like exercise to produce brain chemicals that counter the effects of stress, Ginsburg suggests finding the activities that make you feel relaxed and calm. For some, he says, yoga can do the trick. Others may prefer meditation techniques or deep breathing.
And don’t overlook the relaxing power of cuddling up on a sofa with a good book or magazine, or even playing your favorite movie on the VCR. “Anything that makes you feel calm and relaxed will help counter the biochemical effects of stress,” says Talbott.
5. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol — According to the American Institute of Stress, cigarettes, as well as caffeine-laden soft drinks, coffee, tea, and even chocolate, can cause cortisol levels to rise, stress to increase, blood sugar to drop and hunger to prevail. The institute also cautions against drinking too much alcohol, which can affect blood sugar and insulin levels.
6. Take your vitamins — A number of medical studies have shown that stress can deplete important nutrients — particularly the B complex and C vitamins, and sometimes the minerals calcium and magnesium.
Because these nutrients are needed to balance the effects of stress hormones like cortisol, and may even play a role in helping us burn fat, it’s important to keep levels high, Talbott says. While a good diet will help, he says, taking a high potency multi-vitamin supplement can insure you give your body what it needs to not only deal with the stress, but also burn fat and lose weight.
I fund this information on WEBMD and hope it helps you as you strive to become a more healthier person!