Is Stress Making You Fat?
The key to shedding excess weight is so much more than burning more calories than you take in. Besides genetic factor, medications, or medical conditions, your stress levels may be making it more difficult for you to lose weight.
Of course exercise and healthy eating habits are still the main components to a slim waistline, but if you’re burning the candle at both ends, you may be making it much more difficult for you to succeed.
Broadly speaking, stress can impact your weight from an emotional level or biological level. Emotionally, if life is dealing us lemons, we often respond by finding comfort through our favorite foods. Unfortunately, those favorite comfort foods don’t tend to be kale or apples. That means high fat, high sugar, high caloric foods that add empty calories to our daily totals. It’s not your fault. Our bodies demand readily available energy sources when stressed, which include simple carbs and high fat foods.
Stress also affects us on a chemical level. When our brains detect stress, our bodies release hormones, such as adrenaline, CRH, and cortisol. This is perfectly healthy and necessary for short-term stress.. it’s when we have chronic stress that it becomes a problem. Our bodies are programmed to respond to stress by storing fat.
In addition to psychological stress, physiological factors come into play. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, stress hormones rise. You can even risk chronic inflammation. Research published at the American Diabetes Association found a connection between of elevated inflammatory cytokines and future weight gain. Another study found an association between inflammatory cytokines and insulin resistance.
Stress is also caused by other physiological challenges, such as:
- Chronic infections
- Autoimmune disease
- Environmental toxins
- Too much exercise
There is the potential for a vicious cycle. Stress may cause obesity and being obese can lead to emotionally-driven bad eating habits. The moral of the story is that stress management needs to be just as much a part of your weight loss strategy as eating healthy foods and exercising.