The Connection: Stress and Weight Gain
How does stress make me gain weight?
Being “stressed out” is more than an emotional state, the body understands stress physically, and one of the ways your body deals with stress is by hoarding and storing calories, primarily in the form of fat around your belly.
This has much to do with the way we’ve evolved over centuries. In the wild our adrenals* immediately kicked into fight or flight mode when faced with danger...being chased by an animal, for example. Adrenaline and cortisol are released into the blood stream, giving us that superhuman strength and burst of energy produced from carbohydrates and fats. Our bodies would then stop this extra production once the threat was gone. This adrenal response can be life-saving and necessary to survive a true crisis, but in today’s modern society the problem is that this sequence of events takes place whether the threat is real or perceived. Women are inundated with stress that doesn’t let up, a low grade constant level without any recovery time. We begin to overproduce cortisol which leads to insomnia, anxiety, imbalanced blood sugar levels, and an “overtired & wired” chronic state.
*(The adrenal glands are tiny organs that rest on top of each kidney. Despite their small size, the adrenal glands play an important role in the body, producing numerous hormones that impact our development and growth, affect our ability to deal with stress, and help to regulate kidney function.)
After years of chronic high stress our cortisol levels damage healthy tissues -- which can lead to more long-term health concerns.
Many of my clients complain about the “spare tire”, “love handles” or “middle bulge” they are carrying. They tell me, “I’m working out, I’m eating healthy, but I can’t get rid of this weight in my mid-section.” I hear it all the time, and I have to battle that bulge, also!
A big mistake many of us make is “not eating”, which sends the “starvation/famine signal” to the brain and puts added stress on the adrenals, forcing them to pump extra cortisol. You need to eat healthy and regularly ----- three balanced meals and two healthy snacks per day.
Cortisol has a natural cycle that works with your circadian rhythm. Usually this level is highest in the early morning and declines throughout the day to help you prepare for sleep. So it’s best to eat your largest meal earlier in the day, this will help you relieve your adrenals from maintaining those fasting blood sugar levels.
Here are a few ways to relieve and restore adrenal balance:
- Exercise regularly (move, stretch, break a sweat)
- Do something fun! - - This can help relieve stress and ease the tension that builds up throughout the day.
- Breathe/Meditate: Taking just a few deep breaths in and out throughout your day can help slow your heart rate and help you relax.
- Get enough sleep: Try to turn off all external stimulation earlier in the evening and make a point of getting into bed a little earlier. Read to relax and aim for at least 7 hours of shut eye.
- Slow down! For many of us the stress in our lives is directly and intimately connected to our weight. Slow down and take care of yourself....recharge, replenish, relax, and treat yourself well.
Our bodies are incredibly wise and resilient...when stress is predominant, your body will protect you by holding onto extra weight.
Ease your body away from the “crisis” mode by allowing yourself the care and attention you deserve. Take more time for you, take time to eat well, get the rest you need, and live each day in truth and health. The weight will start to come off and you will be amazed at how much more energy, vitality and focus you have!
Make it a healthy day!