How Stress Impacts Weight
Stress is a part of life and everyone will experience it occasionally. Unfortunately, some of us will experience it more than others, depending on life stressors and situations. For example, there are “good stressors” such as planning for a wedding, a new baby or an exciting move to a new house – these are aptly named ‘good’ because they likely result in positive outcomes. They cause stress because anything outside of our normal, daily routines will sometimes throw us for a loop. There are also events in life that we label ‘bad’ stressors such as arguments with significant others, work pressures or financial concerns, also aptly named because the situations are usually tense, have some level of personal or interpersonal conflict and the outcomes are less definitive.
However, regardless of the type of stress you’re experiencing research reveals that chronic, high stress can actually prevent you from losing weight – or even make you GAIN weight.
You’re likely asking yourself how that’s possible. Well, to simplify, it all has to do with hormones.
When you are experiencing stress, your brain sends signals to your body to release adrenaline with creates a burst of energy. This burst of energy taps into your body’s stored energy, which results in your body having a fight or flee reaction. It’s like your body is on alert and waiting for something to happen – fight or run for survival. It’s a basic human instinct.
While the adrenaline is flowing through your body, you also get a huge rush of cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that tells your body to replenish the “energy” even though you haven’t used it. So ultimately, this hormone cocktail can make you VERY hungry because your body thinks that you have used calories to burn energy – when you haven’t.
To make matters worse, the more stress you’re under, the more cortisol your body is going to pump out. Cortisol also encourages your body to store fat so you actually burn less. (If you’re like me, you’re thinking – OMG, that’s why I’ve been heavy for so many years! It’s like that V8 commercial where the actors hit their foreheads when they come to this AH HA moment that they could have been drinking V8 all along). Anyway…I digress…
People react to this hormone surge differently. Smokers will go for their pack of cigarettes, others drink alcohol or turn to drugs. Some people actually eat less when they’re experiencing stress (you can’t imagine how often I wished that would happen to me), but for many people (myself included) food is the pacifier of choice.
With the surge of hormones rushing through our bodies, we naturally start to crave salty, crunchy, sweet, high calorie high fat foods because we subconsciously want our brains to release the pleasure chemicals (the same chemicals that are released during exercise or sexually) to decrease tension. We want to feel better and subconsciously, we think that food is going to do it for us.
Over time, we naturally become conditioned to this way of living and we start to crave our trigger foods every time we feel stressed.
Therefore, feeling stressed results in a craving for your trigger foods.
Makes sense, right?
Bee happy. Bee healthy.