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Stress + Weight Gain

Written by Mandie Caraway

Published on Nov 16th, 2016

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s easy to fly through the next weeks with an insane amount of stress pushing you through the start of the New Year. Being mindful of the stress in the first place, as well as how it affects our health and metabolism is the first step in helping us manage the intensity of the season.

Last week we talked about the vicious cycle that happens when you start to gain weight. The more weight you gain, the more demotivated you can become to lose it. This cycle can be a dangerous one that makes it too easy to keep adding weight and exercising less and less. After all, the way you feel and the way you perceive things has a big impact on your desire to do better. Your emotional and mental state, in other words, is often reflected in your physical appearance.

What is stress?

I mean, I’m sure you all know what stress is. But do you know that it doesn’t have to be from something that would objectively be viewed as “a big deal”? The stress you feel driving in busy traffic, for example, affects you the same way as the stress you feel when you’re turning in a late assignment at work. The stress from both situations can impact your health and can lead to undesirable side effects. With that said, there are a few different factors that determine just how much stress will affect your health:

Duration

Intensity

Frequency

In general, momentary stress—assuming that it really is momentary and only happens now and then—probably won’t have significant negative impact upon your life. On the other hand, if you experience stress that lasts for hours or days… well, that’s going to cost you. This is especially true if you find yourself undergoing stress often. Have you ever noticed, after prolonged bouts of stress, not only does it show in your appearance (poor skin, under eye bags, deeper wrinkles, etc.) but you get sick more often?

 

Stress & Weight Gain

Stress can lead to fairly significant weight gain. It does this in a few different ways:

Metabolism

Appetite

Mood

Let’s take a look at each of these individual to better understand why managing stress is vital to maintaining both your health as well as your weight.

Stress & Your Metabolism

There were rumors a few years back that claimed stress actually increased your metabolism. Let’s take a second to put an end to that idea right now. Stress does not cause your metabolism speed up in the long run. While it’s fair to say that short-term stress might not impact your metabolism too much, long-term stress actually decreases it. It causes muscle breakdown due to the cortisol your body releases in reaction to stress, which will lowers your metabolism—and increases weight gain—if you experience stress frequently.

 

Stress & Your Appetite

If you experience stress long-term, you could find yourself eating a lot more than usual. This is also thanks to cortisol, the same hormone that affects your metabolism during stressful times. Even more than this, you will find yourself specifically craving foods that have a lot of sugar and fat—two macronutrients associated with serotonin production—not the healthy treats you usually eat. So now you find yourself with a lowered metabolism as well as cravings for unhealthy food which can impact your weight significantly.

Stress & Your Mood

Finally, stress can bring down your mood in a serious way. While we all tend to react a little bit differently to stressful situations, some of the most common ways people experience stress are with irritability, depression, and anxiety. All of these moods can lead to a decreased desire to exercise as well as an increased craving for comfort food.

Have you guys experienced weight gain during a stressful time? It’s a common issue, so don’t feel alone if you have. The good news is that you can lose the weight and feel a lot better by learning to manage your stress. It’s hard work, but you can do it! We’ll talk about some tips in a later blog post. In the mean time, keep your cool and stay sane!