When we are stressed about school and workplace responsibilities, personal obligations, and relationship troubles, we find solace in eating all things sugary, salty, and fried. Eventually, it leads to putting on a lot of weight, especially in the abdominal region. It is known as visceral or toxic fat.
Weight gain has consequences on physical health. It may increase your chances of developing diabetes, cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases. Further, it leads to poor body image and much mental stress. All this causes us to seek solace in binge eating junk food, and the vicious cycle continues.
What Happens When We are Stressed?
Stress, particularly chronic stress, increases the release of the stress hormone named cortisol. Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone released by the adrenal gland under stress conditions to deal with fight-or-flight situations.
Under stress, cortisol halts the body’s metabolism to deal with a flight-or-flight situation. At the same time, it increases the breakdown of fats and carbohydrates to release more energy to fight stress. Unfortunately, this induces cravings for sweet, salty, and fried foods, resulting in weight gain.
Simultaneously, high cortisol levels reduce testosterone release in the body, resulting in reduced muscle mass. Cortisol is an essential hormone that maintains blood sugar, regulates metabolism, and reduces inflammation. Therefore, chronically elevated levels of cortisol levels result in the following.
● Weight gain
● Mood fluctuations
● High blood pressure
● Fatigue and feeling tired
● Difficulty in concentrating
● Insulin resistance
How Should I Manage Stress and Weight Gain?
The question is, how can we break this vicious cycle when it seems almost impossible to reduce stress? We may not be able to reduce the amount of stress, but we can learn to deal with it. Cortisol and weight gain are closely related.
Here are a few small but significant ways for stress management in our lives.
● Regular exercise makes us competent to deal with stressful conditions and releases happy hormones or endorphins in the body. Endorphins elevate our mood and give a feeling of relaxation, helping to reduce cortisol levels.
● Good sleep is crucial to stress management. Further, sleep deprivation and stress are closely related. The release of cortisol hormones follows a circadian rhythm, and almost 40 to 50% of cortisol is released immediately after waking. However, during the day, the release of cortisol keeps waning and is lowest at midnight. The body perceives sleep deprivation as a stress inducer, resulting in the dysregulation of cortisol, which affects the body’s metabolism and promotes fat deposition. Specifically, cortisol and belly fat are closely linked and may lead to cardiac diseases.
● Practicing meditation and yoga regularly helps to maintain cortisol levels in the body.
● Practice mindful eating. Make a conscious effort not to eat junk food when stressed.
● Prioritize your work and plan your schedule to avoid any last-minute stress.
In a Nutshell
Breaking the cycle of stress and weight gain is the only way out. Overall, you need to remember there is no magic pill to control cortisol and manage a healthy weight. It is a matter of patience and determination. Practice these lifestyle modifications, and no one will be able to stop you from achieving your weight loss goals and leading a healthy life.