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Stressing About Your Weight Is Proven To Make You Gain Weight
It’s a case of the chicken versus the egg situation – recent studies have found that stressing about gaining weight may be making you do just that. So is it the extra weight that is making you stress or did you gain the extra weight because you stressed? Many people stress about their weight and this world where we only see ‘perfect’ models on every screen and magazine page it’s understandable that those that feel they don’t fit into the mold of a ‘good’ weight stress about what to do about it.
Unfortunately, it’s not just that we stress about looking like the modern ideal. A whopping 45 percent of adults actually are overweight which means that their BMI registered above a 25 on the scale. An individual’s BMI is determined by their weight and height and compared to an average or healthy weight. Although there is always some margin of error with the scale, and it doesn’t quantify for whether the person’s weight is muscle mass or fat, it is usually a good indicator of a person’s health. It’s not just in the United States either that obesity is rising, there are rising numbers of overweight adults and children in almost all first world countries and even third world countries are seeing the effects of the obesity epidemic.
There are many causes of weight gain from genes to simply overeating. Genetics can play a part in how much weight you gain or fail to lose especially if most of your family is overweight or if you’ve been overweight your whole life. Weight gain can also be due to many medical complications or illnesses as well as medications you might be taking for certain illnesses. Weight gain can also be due to your digestive system not working well and therefore you retain weight in the form of being constipated. As you get older, it will also be harder to not gain weight or to lose it if you desire to do so. All of these reasons, and more, can be contributing to your weight gain – aside from excess calories and no exercise or not living a healthy lifestyle.
Stress-Induced Weight Gain
One big reason for unintentional weight gain now is high levels of stress, though. When you’re stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released into your system. This hormone triggers the fight-or-flight action and puts your body into a situation where it thinks that it’s burning calories because it’s doing one or the other. In fact, your body is not burning calories. The fight-or-flight instinct to stress is reminiscent from when humans had to hunt and fight for their food and stress was usually associated with that activity.
Now stress comes from a variety of things – jobs, family, friends, peer pressure, school, etc – and our bodies haven’t yet adapted to this new form of stress. The increased levels of cortisol therefore also trigger our bodies to store fat because it thinks that we are going to be coming into a time of scarcity. Our bodies also trigger us to eat more and to eat foods that are fattening – comfort foods, as they are called because they satisfy that craving for sweets and fats our body is asking for. These foods were supposed to help ancient people deal with the famines they had ahead of them and to make them eat as much as they could before famine set in.
And cortisol is not the only culprit when it comes to stress-induced weight gain. Lack of sleep also wreaks havoc on your metabolism and makes it slow down which means that you’re gaining weight that way too. One study, done by Dr. Michael Mosley the inventor of the revolutionary 5:2 diet, used 20 volunteers to test the effects sleep deprivation would have on their weight. The study consisted of depriving the volunteers for two nights of sleep, then letting them sleep normally the next two. The results concluded that after two nights of deprived sleep, the volunteers felt more hungry and tried to compensate for the lack of sleep by overeating, especially sweets and comfort food. So disturbed sleep leads to overeating which can lead to stress about your weight which leads to more weight gain and more disturbed sleep.
How To Deal With Stress Weight
There are a few ways to get yourself out of the cycle of stress overeating and gaining weight. One way is to trick your body into thinking that you are completing the action of fight-or-flight by exercising. Exercising not only helps you get rid of some of the calories you might have taken in from eating comfort foods that day but it also relieves the levels of cortisol in your body and thus reduces your stress levels. Another way to keep your stress levels down is to go slower at meals – not only does it force your body to wait longer in between bites and thus giving it time to send the ‘fullness’ signal to your brain, but it also seems to help lower the cortisol levels in your body.
Speaking of food, strict dieting to help you lose weight also doesn’t work because a strict diet seems to almost always increase a person’s stress level as they feel restricted and pushed into a situation they don’t want to be in. Plus, most strict diets cause your blood sugar to spike and fall multiple times throughout the day and this alone can cause your body to think that you are in an environment where food is going to be scarce and thus cortisol increases in the body. One last note on the food – it’s best to stay away from caffeine when you’re stressed because caffeine combined with stress raises cortisol levels even more.
Stress might seem unavoidable in today’s modern world but there are some things you can do to help your body deal with it. Stress-induced weight gain is also probably one of the biggest reasons people gain weight and a reason that a high percentage of the richest countries people are obese. The hormone cortisol is one of the main reasons that stress brings on weight gain and it is also why stress induces deficiencies in sleep. Sleep deprivation also brings on more stress and changes in metabolism that can wreak havoc with your body. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help your body deal with the stress and combat the weight gain. If you’re finding yourself gaining weight under stress, simply follow some of the step outlined above. Living a healthy life can be achieved, even in today’s hectic world.