How Stress Affects Your Weight

Stress weight gainIt’s just before midnight. You have a presentation to give at work in the morning and you’re elbow deep in a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Stress is unavoidable. There are aspects of our lives that will be out of our control. How we react to those events can shape our mental state and determine how stress affects our weight.

Stress and weight gain

Whether it’s an ongoing issue at work, a family challenge or worrying about a good friend, stress can cause weight gain. The added bulge around your midsection is nothing to ignore.

While sudden stress may actually cause your appetite to fade, continuous stress can trigger stronger hunger cues than normal in your body. Overeating when you’re stressed is a survival mode response from your body. Your body assumes you’ve burned calories to deal with the stress, even though you haven’t, so your mind tells you to replace those calories, although you don’t need to.

To add to the danger of unnecessary hunger cues, cortisol, the hormone released when you’re stressed, creates higher insulin levels. When your blood sugar drops, you crave sweet and salty foods. As a result, stress begins to show in your waistline.

Avoid stress-related weight gain

It’s impossible to avoid all stressful situations in life (ever sat in traffic on I-5?), but we can equip ourselves to not allow those situations to control our actions. These basic functions can keep you mentally prepared for the stress life throws your way:

  • Rest: When you’re tired, you’re more likely to be reactive to stress. Getting a full night’s sleep keeps you mentally sharp and able to make better decisions despite the stressful situation.
  • Eat well: When you eat sugar-filled or salty foods when you aren’t stressed, you body naturally begins to crave those foods. When stress kicks in, those cravings increase. Stick with a weight loss food plan that’s convenient to follow.
  • Stay active: When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, the antidote to the stress hormone. You get to relieve stress and fill your body will feel-good hormones.
  • Practice relaxation: Be purposeful about relaxing. Schedule a massage, practice yoga, or meditate. When you keep your mind and body in a state of well-being, it’s much hard for stress to dismantle your mindset (or eating habits).

We all deal with stress, but creating a game plan for how to handle those situations before you find yourself in the middle of one will help you better control your eating.