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Stress Eating? Why It's Affecting Your Weight

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yoga,relax,beach,stress,relief,cortisol,fat,leptin,visceral,combat,fightGaining weight can be a cause for stress, such as when you can’t fit into clothes or find it difficult to partake in activities you did with ease before. Beginning to gain weight can cause a cycle of putting on more pounds over time, which in turn causes more stress. You can’t simply eliminate all sources of stress in life, but you can learn ways to keep it from controlling your thoughts and eating behaviors.

These days, there are a lot of things that worry us – the economy, global crises, the effects of the pandemic, inflation – the list goes on. That worry and stress tends to show up in the form of extra pounds on the scale. Why is this?

The connection between stress and belly fat

Your body is designed to use cortisol, a hormone, when your brain senses danger. It elevates blood sugar levels, heart rate, and blood pressure, and causes your body to enter fight-or-flight mode. These days, when you experience stress on a regular basis, your cortisol levels remain elevated. This promotes the body to store more fat in the abdomen, especially as visceral fat. Visceral fat is the “bad” fat that accumulates around your internal organs. People with higher levels of cortisol in their systems tend to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).

Since your body is craving sugar to get through a stressful period, it can create sugar all on its own through a process called gluconeogenesis, which means it can use other macronutrients in the body to create new blood sugar. Excess blood sugar is controlled by the pancreas when it is converted to fat and then stored away...

So, if you are the type that tends to be stressed frequently, your body is being directed to store fat and gain weight, no matter what you eat. Stress actually causes a demand for more blood sugar, which is why you are turning to sugary foods during these periods.

Why do I eat more when I’m stressed?

Scientists have found in studies* that cortisol directly causes people to eat more. Frequently high cortisol levels make your brain insensitive to leptin, which is a hormone that will cause you to have feelings of fullness from eating. Without leptin working properly, you can end up eating more food, more frequently, and gaining weight.

When you eat sugary and carb-filled foods such as candy, chips, and ice cream, your body releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone, and the brain feels rewarded. This temporarily alleviates the effects of stress but is adding those extra pounds to your waistline.

How to combat stress eating

One way you can begin to combat stress eating is by creating a healthy new relaxation habit that is connected to a healthy food. For instance, you can relax by meditating, taking a walk, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, or any other activity that you enjoy that brings your stress levels down. As you complete your activity, you can enjoy an ITG bar, protein chips, or even a plate of crunchy vegetables with a Walden Farms dressing or homemade healthy dip to finish up your activity. In Step 3, this could be your favorite sliced fruits, nuts, or cheese. Your mind will begin to equate your stress-relieving activity with a healthy snack reward which will help lower cortisol, increase leptin, and keep you from overeating later. Once you are able to put this into practice, over time your mind and body can begin to feel relief from stress, just by eating healthier!


Break the Cycle!




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Guest Monday, 22 April 2024
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