Those moments when you feel like you just can’t cope with all that is taking place? The absolute worst. It does not help that during stressful times it feels that nothing works out correctly. This brings up the inquiry: Does stress actually lead to weight gain?
If you think your weight is changing as a result of being stressed, it is not just an illusion. There is a connection between stress and putting on weight, not just because you may not bother with your regular healthy habits when you are feeling the strain.
Luckily, there are ways to avoid stress-related weight gain. In this article, we look into how stress can cause an increase in weight, as well as the best strategies to deal with stress when life gets tough.
If you are curious about the connection between stress and weight gain, this article provides information on the topic. Especially chronic stress and stubborn belly fat.
Does Stress Cause Fat Gain?
Many people express being under a great deal of pressure- they are constantly occupied, and they feel they have too much to do and not enough time to do it. It’s undeniable that pressure is an enormous factor in our daily routines, and current humans are more prone to constant stress than individuals in past generations.
Short-term and intense stress can be helpful and healthy as it energizes the body and leads to other changes, such as increasing muscle mass, burning fat, and changing neuronal pathways. Continually being under pressure can have the reverse outcome, leading to an increase in weight.
In a 2015 study, it was discovered that females with high-stress levels had a slower metabolism. The investigators identified that individuals who stated they had been through one or more unpleasant events in the last 24 hours burned 104 calories fewer than those who were not distressed. They also had higher insulin and less fat oxidation.
Stress and Belly Fat Effect
Cortisol is referred to as the body’s stress hormone due to the fact that it heightens adrenaline, dispenses glycogen into the bloodstream, utilizes fat stores, and sharpens attentiveness.
Ongoing levels of cortisol and anxiety can cause individuals to put on extra pounds and undergo hormone-related problems by accumulating visceral fat.
- Visceral fat is deep abdominal fat around your organs that promotes inflammation, insulin resistance, and heart disease.
- Cortisol mobilizes triglycerides (stored body fat molecules) into visceral fat cells and predisposes you to store more fat.
- Visceral fat cells have more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat, which is the fat under your skin.
Elevated cortisol raises blood sugar, which increases insulin levels. This makes the process of saving calories even more extreme because the hormone insulin is responsible for storing them. When the cortisol levels are too high, and insulin is also high, it can lead to hyperinsulinemia, resistance to insulin, obesity, and diabetes.
If you see that there is fat that is difficult to get rid of around your mid-section, it could be an indication of having high levels of cortisol and high levels of stress. Individuals who have a high amount of cortisol in their urine tend to have larger waist measurements compared to their hip sizes.
Sleep and Stress Fat Gain
When you get up in the morning, cortisol levels in your body should be higher than when you lie down to sleep at night. If you are feeling overwhelmed in the evening with heightened cortisol and adrenaline levels, sleeping will become difficult, and this can lead to amplified stress and an inclination to gain more weight.
Many individuals claim to be having difficulty with their sleep, including sleep apnea, trouble getting to sleep, waking up often throughout the night, and not sleeping enough. This has a big impact on escalating levels of stress hormones which also stops stubborn fat from being lost.
Getting less than 8.5 hours of sleep each night causes the body to burn a lower amount of fat and a higher amount of carbohydrates and proteins. This predisposes you to fat gain and muscle loss. This also uses up your strength of mind and leads to a decrease in self-discipline, which increases your likelihood of overeating.
You can observe a continuous loop of stress and obesity which in turn reduces the quality of sleep and consequently further increases stress and weight gain. The best way to combat exhaustion is to get a good night’s rest.
Are There Other Ways Stress Leads to Weight Gain?
Yes. Failing to cope with stress can lead to raised cortisol levels, as well as unhealthy habits which in turn can result in extra weight. Here are a few:
Consuming food can be a source of comfort during difficult times for some people. This could explain why, just like in every romantic comedy movie,you might be more tempted to have a cup of ice cream after a contention between you and your partner or after a breakup. The reason we enjoy indulging in tasty, high-calorie foods is due to the surge of dopamine that we experience, providing a pleasant sensation. When feeling overwhelmed by stress or other difficult emotions, or when feeling a lack of emotional satisfaction, we seek out ways to enjoy pleasure.
Engaging in emotional eating can lead to unwholesome dietary behavior, like noshing between meals at times of the day, which are usually off-limits, or consuming an excessive amount of foods that are packed with calories but lack nutritional value. Unhealthy eating can result in excess weight gain.
Consuming an excessive amount of food in a single sitting to address negative feelings is a sign of a condition known as binge eating. More than merely feeling overwhelmed or attempting to use food to handle emotional issues, those who have a tendency to binge eat can also experience feeling guilty or shameful regarding their eating habits, as well as a lack of control over their actions. Engaging in excessive eating patterns can result in weight gain, but it can also damage one’s mental health. If you are having these symptoms, it is recommended to visit a doctor who can decide what would be the best plan of action.
Eating fast food
If you are in a hurry and looking for something satisfying, you may want to go to a fast-food restaurant. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the food offered at these establishments is usually not very nutritious. Fast food is made delicious by increasing the amount of salt, fat, and sugar used. The sugar and fat trigger the brain’s positive reaction. The reason it gives you more of a dopamine boost than broccoli does. Overall, eating it doesn’t really provide beneficial nutrients, and it just makes you crave more and more. If your diet isn’t healthy and properly proportioned, it can lead to weight gain more easily. Unfortunately, meals from fast food restaurants are not always the best choice from a health standpoint.
Drinking more alcohol
If it’s been a difficult day, one of your go-to strategies to relax may include having a drink, which makes sense since alcohol produces dopamine, the hormone associated with pleasure.
But alcohol’s calming effects are temporary. Alcohol initially has a tranquilizing effect, but it also stimulates the body, which may lead to unease and poor sleep quality. Subsequently, this can create additional troubling feelings and may trigger an increase in weight. Consuming alcoholic beverages can often result in consuming less healthy late-night meals as well, and this can eventually cause an increase in weight.
Eating fewer meals doesn’t inherently cause someone to gain weight. However, if a meal is skipped, this could potentially lead to an increase in calories eaten later on in the day. Eating within a specific timeframe of the day can help with shedding pounds, as it limits the amount of time available for consuming calories. Despite this, if you tend to opt for unhealthy foods after avoiding meals, then time-restricted eating may not be suitable for you.
If not taking time to eat a meal due to being busy causes you to consume more at a later point, it can result in gaining weight.
Exercising fewer times will not automatically lead to an increase in weight; however, it can cause issues such as stress that can alter your hormone production and your overall health. Nutrition is more important than exercise when it comes to losing weight. Nevertheless, physical activity is crucial for maintaining a healthy heart and circulation as well as constructing muscles and strengthening bones.
Strength-building is connected with accumulating muscle mass, and muscle tissue consumes more calories than fat does, so if you reduce the amount of regular workouts you do, then your body fat level could increase.
Sleeping for an adequate amount of time is not only necessary for overall wellness as your body needs that opportunity to rest, but it can also affect your circadian rhythm, and, subsequently, the hormones impacting your weight. When your body’s internal clock is disrupted, it will promote the secretion of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it could be difficult to find the motivation to perform healthy tasks such as exercising and preparing meals for the day.
Individuals respond to tension in a multitude of ways – some begin to immediately soothe themselves with eating and feel-better foods while others cease eating completely. It would be wiser not to consume food when one is experiencing stress due to the factors I just stated. Eating food that is high in cortisol and stress can lead to higher calorie retention and make you more likely to overeat.
How to Lose Fat When You’re Stressed Out
Here’s what to do to lower your stress and start losing fat again:
- Get Enough Sleep – If you’re sleep deprived, your body will hold onto its fat stores because you’re in a state of sympathetic dominance and excess cortisol. Unfortunately, being stressed out and anxious makes it harder to get the good sleep you need the most.
- Take Magnesium Before Bed – The majority of people are already deficient in magnesium, and it’s hard to obtain it from food. If you only take one kind of magnesium, you may still be deficient in the other forms because they all govern different processes. I’m taking Magnesium Breakthrough by BiOptimizers because they combine all the different types of magnesium into one.
- Do Resistance Training Instead of Chronic Cardio – Exercise is an acute stressor that has a beneficial effect in the long term. However, chronic cardio or too much HIIT can still keep you stuck in the sympathetic mode. What you should focus on instead is resistance training and building lean muscle mass because it’s more acute but still yields a better result in terms of body composition.
- Take a Sauna or an Ice Bath – Heat and cold exposure are amazing for lowering inflammation and shutting down cortisol. Although they’re stressors themselves, you’ll feel very rejuvenated afterward. You literally can’t think about your work and stress-related issues when you’re sitting in an ice bath, and it kind of resets your nervous system.
- Go Off the Grid – Sometimes, you need to just stop working and take a time out. If you’re constantly surrounded by your responsibilities and errands, your brain will never have a chance to come out of the arousal. What you should do is go off the grid and spend some time in nature to allow your body to recover.
- Balance Your Electrolytes and Minerals – As said, deficiencies in sodium and magnesium can elevate cortisol and make you insulin resistant. Unless you have severe hypertension, there’s no need to restrict sodium. In fact, high blood pressure is predominantly caused by excess carbohydrate consumption and insulin, which make you retain more water. Consuming salt on a lower-carb diet has the opposite effect and you actually need to get more salt.
- Keep a Food Journal – Keeping a food journal can be a form of accountability. A food journal can be an app, an actual notebook, or whatever else helps you keep tract of what you’re eating. Seeing that information visually can make it easier to meet your goals when it comes to improving your eating habits.
Keep track of your moods when you’re eating something. More important than just writing down when you eat and what you eat is writing down why you eat. Is it true hunger, is it boredom, is it anxiety, is it sadness, is it excitement? This can help you make healthy changes that can keep you out of the stress-related weight gain cycle. Notice your patterns and use that as your personal blueprint to make changes to your template.
Stress can actually be beneficial, but only if it is not prolonged. Various individuals have varying levels of tolerance for stress, with some being better able to handle it compared to others who become overwhelmed by even minor difficulties.
It does not matter what the situation is; some basics remain the same for all people, like making sure you consume the right minerals, getting enough rest, and keeping up a regular exercise program.