Today, the world is a busy place. Your work may be extremely hectic, your family-life may be nagging and troublesome, friendships can be a handful, and your life can become a rat race filled with stress! Stress affects people from all walks of life and can negatively influence your life by causing serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and obesity. Stress-related weight gain is a serious concern and is very difficult to deal with, especially when it develops into a vicious cycle of stress and weight gain.
Just healthy exercise and a strict diet are not enough to reduce your weight, but you have to consider the intangible factors, particularly stress, which is the most obvious yet ignored causes of weight gain. Experts suggest that even with a healthy diet and exercise routine, chronic stress will prevent you from losing that extra pound of fat or worse still, add to your already staggering weight. If you ask any expert with a good reputation about the most ignored risk factor for weight gain, 99 out of 100 will tell you that it is STRESS!
Does Stress really cause Weight-Gain?
A recent research by the Ohio State University shows that stressful family situations and a busy work schedule can lead to weight gain over time. Individuals who were stressed out in one or more ways during the previous 24 hours burned 104 calories lesser than non-stressed individuals in a similar situation after eating a high-fat meal. This might seem insignificant but adds to a mighty 11 pounds a year to your body weight. Alarming, isn’t it? At this rate, you might even double your body weight after about 10 years!
Stress increases weight gain by increasing the fight-or-flight hormones, adrenaline along with corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and Cortisol in response to our daily stress. Adrenaline and CRH released during acute stressful situations actually make you lose your appetite but Cortisol, released more often during longer durations of stress, hangs in a bit longer causing you to feel hungrier and thus adding to the build-up of fat in your belly.
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The fight-or-flight response is the body’s response to a perceived threat to survival or any harmful event, and that worked wonderfully well in olden times when man had to fight off or run away from wild animals for survival. Although we don’t fight off or run away from wild animals expending the enormous energy generated by the fight-or-flight response, we rather sit and sulk when we feel threatened or are stressed out. Our bodies then demand more food. This causes us to gain more weight as our stress hormones signal our body to eat up sugar-rich goodies to rapidly replenish “lost energy” during stress.
But hey, watch out! You almost forgot that you were just sitting and sulking, not fighting an angry lion or running from it.
Top 5 Ways to Avoid Stress-Related Weight Gain
Anyone can be affected by stress-related weight gain – it affects thousands of people across the globe. Although your hormones signal you to eat carbohydrate-rich foods after or during stressful situations, the decision to eat is yours. This means that you are prone to become a habitual food-junkie aka to become extremely fat with the amount of stress that you have to deal with on a daily basis. If you are in the habit of eating sugar-rich goodies every time you feel stressed out, you alone are responsible for your weight gain. If you are at all concerned about your weight, you should break this vicious cycle of stress and weight gain.
To get you started, listed below are the top 5 ways to avoid stress-related weight gain:
Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great way to burn calories while also helping in reducing the amount of stress hormones released by the body. But, remember that over exercising might cause even more stress and yes, weight gain. So, a healthy dose of exercise such as running or yoga or Pilates would be a step in the right direction. A suggested healthy routine would be 20 minutes of exercise 3 to 5 times a week.
Eat smart, eat healthy: Eating small, frequent meals helps in reducing sugar and insulin levels, which in turn reduces the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. When stressed out and hungry, remember that every single calorie counts. Remember, that high-carbohydrate meals cause weight gain. Snack, if you have to, but only on whole grain foods such as fruits, whole-grain flakes and cereals, which are rich in dietary fiber. Also, fasting once in a while might be a beneficial habit, skipping meals regularly can be a poor way to manage weight-gain.
Relax and get enough sleep: Not getting enough sleep and relaxation are the two most important stressors in today’s busy world. Give yourself sufficient time to relax and sleep. A suggested minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep will keep your mind free of stress. Try meditation or any other stress-relieving activities. Spare 10 to 15 minutes of your time when you just wake up for meditation as it is a great way to relieve stress.
Keep away from alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes: Drinking alcohol to “reduce stress” is a myth, except maybe, if you drink in strict moderation. Cigarettes and caffeine-rich food and drinks such as soft drinks, tea, coffee, and hey, even chocolate can increase your cortisol levels pumping up stress levels. So cut down on these modest stress-boosters, which are known to increase stress.
Take time off from work: Taking time off from regular work can be a great way to deal with stress. It refreshes your body and mind. It is like rebooting your system to clear unnecessary junk. Now go, reward yourself for all the hard work with a vacation away from as many stressors as possible.
Finally, you should discover your very own positive and healthy ways to handle stress as it occurs. This will greatly reduce your emotional burden and help you succeed in life. You should use the “top 5 ways to avoid stress-related weight gain” as a guideline to prevent stress and stress-induced weight gain. Now, go ahead, bust some stress!