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Can Stress Make You Fat?

Stress is probably the most frequently encountered word in recent times, followed by its synonymous counterpart with a serious medical tone: depression. Stress has actually become a way of life for us and most of us are probably not even aware of it.  Sit down and think: how often do you find yourself caught up in a rat race, dragging yourself out of the bed in the morning has become a task, you need coffee as a "pick me up" and the worst part: that number on the scale just keeps creeping up!

Stress can actually make you gain weight. Studies have shown that high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol increases Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) especially in women with depression and anxiety. Moreover, short sleep duration (one of the most common symptoms of stress/anxiety) also increases the levels of stress hormone which further increases your appetite and craving for sugary foods. "The less you sleep, the more you eat!" It is as simple as that.

How often do you find yourself indulging in health-sabotaging acts when stressed? Increased intake of caffeine (coffee, tea, diet drinks) increases the cortisol levels in the blood and slows down your body's capacity to burn calories. Forgetting to drink water from the bottle sitting right on the desk is something I frequently hear from people. But do you know, water is the easiest way to improve your muscle tone? Mindless munching or completely skipping meals when stressed causes uneven blood sugar spikes, depositing fat right on your waist.

Four ways to fight the stress:

  1. Eat wisely
Try to eat 5-6 small, frequent meals per day. This will keep your metabolism going and protect against those uneven sugar spikes. Incorporate good quality protein snacks in your diet, that will help to fight physiological stress caused due to anxiety and depression. Examples:
8oz glass of skim milk/ soy milk.
1 whole hard boiled egg
8oz glass of low fat plain kefir (Evolve, Life way).
Low fat Greek yogurt like Chobani or Fage
Fresh cut up fruits/berries with low fat cottage cheese

2. Cheat smartly
Start keeping a food log like the one on FitDay.com-- it's the perfect way to find out what your comfort/cheat foods are.
Kashi TLC cookies or Vita tops/ vita muffins, Fiber-1 bar can satisfy your chocolate craving and provide extra fiber without compromising on the taste factor.
Satisfy your salty/crunchy cravings with the Gourmet basics smart fries (110 cals, 0 fat/0sugar), 100 cal popcorn (good source of fiber) or apple chips or 100 cal nuts (good source of fiber and antioxidants).  

Get 8 hours of good night sleep
Again, the less you sleep the more you crave for sugar. If you have trouble falling asleep, try to do some deep breathing (count your inhalation and exhalation 5 times keeping it deep and slow) or try the chamomile tea. This will help lower down your stress hormones and induce sleep at the same time.

Exercise daily
It has been effectively used to reduce stress and anxiety.

Fight your stress wisely!

Prachi Baxi has a double masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Public Health Nutrition, she is a Nutrition Specialist certified by the American College of Nutrition and a Certified Yoga Instructor. Her immense experience in the field of Ashtanga Yoga coupled with her Nutrition knowledge she helps people who need to and want to change their way of life, become fit and discover their newer selves. She is a Fitness Counselor who has a passion for life and teaches yoga with intent and compassion. Prachi can be reached via email at prachii.baxii@gmail.com.

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