Although there are many things that can cause weight gain one of the leading contenders is definitely stress. Stress can be caused by many different things and even our levels of stress can vary throughout the day. Sitting in a traffic jam when you are running late for work may cause you a great deal of stress while you’re in the situation. Suffering a loss of significant value can cause long term stress that isn’t as easy to dismiss as a traffic jam. Stress can set off physical and emotional changes that drive you to eat more, crave less nutritious, fattening comfort foods — and even gain weight much more easily.
“Stress drives up levels of a hormone called cortisol in the blood,” says Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland that helps to regulate your metabolism. It also plays a role in blood sugar management and memory. When levels of cortisol rise, it can promote inflammation and may spur the body to start stockpiling fat around the midsection. “Stress might also disrupt sleep and drive people to seek out food when they wouldn’t normally – such as in the middle of the night,” says Dr. Stanford.
Stress is a part of life that is hard to avoid. Most people will have stressful times whether they last a day or a year, it can’t be avoided completely, yet some evidence suggests women are disproportionately affected by stress. Weight that is gained during high stress times is normal but there are things that can be done to help curb the eating. Here are 5 strategies that may help:
- While cortisol is produced in high levels when we are stressed, exercise causes it to be lowered. Choose something that you like to do, a brisk walk in the park, a round of tennis, shopping. Whatever it is that can get you moving will help to drop those cortisol levels.
- Not getting enough sleep can cause an increase in the amount of stress hormones you have in your body. Making sleep a priority can be a great help to reduce them.
- Changing your perception of what is causing you stress can be a game changer. If you are stressing over something you can’t change, work at letting it go. If you are stressed from a traumatic event, try to focus on your blessings a little more often.
- If you are heading into a high stress time, planning your eating ahead of time can help ward off those cravings. Taking more walks during the day will help too. Whatever it is that helps you when you are stressed, plan on doing it a little bit more.
- Consulting with your doctor can be a good choice if you are feeling stress that is controlling your life. There are many resources that can help you get through the rough times. Your doctor will have information available that you may not have.
Gaining weight during times of stress is no coincidence. Changes that our bodies make to deal with the stress will make you more hungry. Taking a few extra steps a day can help you to deal with your stress and not gain as much weight.