You might have never considered it before, but it is not all to do with your eating habits if your silhouette is getting softer than desired.
Oh yes! There are other agents that can drive you to eat more than you should. Stress is one of those.
And even more surprisingly, being on a strict diet every now and again is an agent that increases your stress and…your weight!
Unfortunately stress is a way of life in the 21st century. Regardless what the reason are, overdue bills, job loss or partner break ups; whilst the human body can deal pretty well with sudden and short-term stress, it isn’t used to deal with long-term or chronicle stress.
We all know that, when under stress, we release a hormone called adrenaline, which gives us instant energy; on the side of it we also release Cortisol.
High levels of adrenaline decrease appetite at first, but its effects don’t last long.
Cortisol’s function is to help replenishing our body after the stress has passed and it can remain elevated for longer, increasing our appetite and driving us to eat more.
Instead of reacting actively to fight our way out of stress, we often sit and stew in our frustration without expending any calories or food storage.
Often eating becomes the activity that “releases“ the stress.
Since our Neuro-endocrine system doesn’t get the signal that we are reacting to stress, it still responds with the hormonal signal to replenish nutritional stores, which may make you feel hungry.
Following those stress signals can lead not only to weight gain, but also to the tendency to store what is called “visceral fat” around the midsection. These fat cells that lie deep within the abdomen have been linked to an increase in both diabetes and heart disease.
To make it even worse, our muscles need sugar as a fuel. So most likely what we crave is sugary and starchy food that spike our insulin level.
High sugar and high insulin levels within the body cause fat storage.
To complete the scenario, the brain remember this process: every time that feels under stress and detects high levels of cortisol within the body, the brain trigger appetite and sugar cravings, so that over-eating becomes a behavioral response, more simply called habit.
Now the good news.
Whether your urge to eat is driven by hormones or habits or a combination of both, research shows there are ways to interrupt the cycle, break the stress and stop the weight gain.
MY 8 TOP TIPS:
- EXERCISE. This is the best stress fighter, which counter the negative effects of stress hormones as well as control insulin and sugar levels. Be Aware! At the same time, exercising too hard for too long can raise cortisol levels and increase stress. The answer is: choose an activity you really enjoy doing and keep your workouts to a length and intensity that don’t exhaust you.
- EAT A BALANCE DIET. Eat breakfast and try to consume 5 small rather than three huge meals a day, balancing the macronutrients.
- SLEEP. When we don’t get enough rest, cortisol levels rise, making us feel hungry and less satisfied.
- MAKE TIME TO RELAX. Find the activities that make you feel relaxed and calm. For some people yoga or breathing exercises can do the trick. Don’t disregard also the relaxing power of cuddling up on a sofa with a good book, or a warming hot bath when you get home after work.
- SNACK ON HIGH FIBRE FOOD. If you just can’t ignore those stress-related hunger pangs, try filling your tummy with foods high in fiber and low in sugar, like oatmeal, whole wheat bread, or fruits such as apples.
- STAY AWAY FROM CAFFEINE, CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL. Researches shows that cigarettes, caffeine based soft drinks, coffee, and tea can cause cortisol levels to rise, stress to increase, blood sugar to drop and hunger to rise. Also be sensible to not drink too much alcohol, alcohol is high in sugar and can spike blood sugar and insulin levels.
- TAKE YOUR VITAMINS. Studies have show that stress can deplete important nutrients, particularly the B complex and C vitamins, and sometimes the minerals calcium and magnesium, which can favorite weight loss.
- AVOID STRICT DIETS. The more strict you are with the food intake, the higher is our levels of stress hormones, in other words, the more we want to eat.
What’s your favourite way to destress? Let me know by commenting below!