How Stress Prevents Weight Loss and 5 Methods To Beat It

How Stress Prevents Weight Loss and 3 Ways To Beat It

You are under pressure. You are anxious and on the go all the time. You don't overeat and exercise a fair amount, but you seem to gain weight rather than lose. What the hell is going on here?

The hectic pace of everyday life naturally creates a certain amount of pressure that actually helps us to function. A demanding work environment, family problems, illness, financial worries and relationship problems are part of life, but it depends on the impact they have.

Constant, chronic, low or high levels of stress that can damage your emotional and physical health. Aside from anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation, stress can lead to high blood pressure, weight problems, and an increased susceptibility to colds, infections, and more serious illnesses.

5 reasons how stress prevents weight loss

1. Stress causes many people to eat stress: Stress eating is a type of emotional eating that contributes to excess calories and, if done often enough, leads to weight gain. In addition, the types of foods that people crave when they are stressed out are usually high in fat and sugary. "We crave foods that are sweet, salty, and high in fat (when they're stressed) because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension," said Elissa Epel, a researcher at the University of California. This calming effect is addictive because it relieves stress (but only for a very short period of time. Ultimately, when we gain weight and become less healthy, we feel worse).

2. Stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol: Cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes body fat and makes it difficult to lose weight, especially in the middle. This is known as visceral fat and is especially dangerous as it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, increases cholesterol and insulin levels, and paves the way for heart disease and diabetes (listen to our podcast on the dangers of visceral fat here) .

3. When someone is stressed, they generally sleep less: Less sleep and chronic fatigue lead to an increase in the hormone "ghrelin". Ghrelin is the primary hunger hormone and makes someone feel hungry even when they don't need to eat. It is also released when we drink too much alcohol – which is a common “numbing technique” used when people are stressed. Just like food, it offers a temporary release, but it doesn't help in the long run. In fact, many people don't know that alcohol suppresses feel-good chemicals over the long term.

4. Stress causes routines to go out of the window: Someone who is normally in control of their blood sugar (by eating a source of protein every 3-4 hours) will suddenly find that they are eating at irregular times or going without food for hours. This has a devastating effect on our metabolism and our poor body. Unsure of when the next calories will come, the body will even begin to hold onto fat as the source of energy it may need. Then when we add a load of sugar to it, it is a recipe for significant weight gain.

5. Stress affects the prefrontal cortex (PFC): An important aspect of losing weight is how your brain actually works. Stress lowered the PFC, which is exactly the part of the brain we need to function well in order to stick to a weight loss program. The PFC is responsible for planning (that is, preparing healthy meals in advance), making good decisions and exercising willpower (that is, saying no to a high-sugar food) and our emotional responses (that is, when they are intense, can lead to) emotional eating). Bad PFC function has been shown to lead to more impulsive behavior (i.e. eating unhealthy foods and then wondering why we did it right after). Learn how to prepare your brain for weight loss here.

3 easy ways to overcome stress

1. Exercise every day: Exercise – even just a brisk 20-minute walk – makes your blood circulate faster, transports cortisol to your kidneys, and flushes it out of your system.

2. Slow down: We know that slowing down our eating results in us consuming less, but more. Experts now believe that cortisol levels go down as we slow down with meals. Read more about the overall benefits of slowing down here.

3. Tick the caffeine down: Did you know that coffee is actually "anxiogenic" (in other words, too much of it can contribute to anxiety). The next time you're particularly stressed out, try an herbal tea or choose a decaf instead. Incredibly, caffeine can actually increase cortisol levels more than just stress. A study conducted by the University of Oklahoma showed that consuming 2-3 cups of coffee during mild stress increased cortisol by up to 25% (and kept it elevated for 3 hours afterwards).

Lose weight?

We've talked about how stress can cause you to gain weight (or hinder / slow down weight loss). But how about people who lose weight when stressed – is that a good thing? We would argue that it is poor quality weight loss. For those people who are losing their appetite, weight loss is unhealthy and can cause dehydration, weakness, and suppression of the immune system (which we know can lead to serious illnesses, including cancer).

In many cases, the person can also lose muscle mass and fat, which ultimately leads to a slowdown in their metabolism over time (so their weight is likely to increase in the near future).

Important: If you lose weight for no apparent reason and without trying, it is imperative that you see your doctor immediately.


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