When it comes to the subject of weight loss, stress levels are worth examining. If you are trying to lose weight and are dealing with too much stress in your life, your body may be going through processes that sabotage your weight loss efforts. On the other hand, if you are losing weight and not sure why, stress could be the culprit.
Here are four ways that weight loss and stress are related:
1. Stress and Food Cravings
Many people find that they eat when they are under stress. This is when you eat not because you're hungry but because some emotion such as anger, sadness or frustration is pushing you to reach for food. Usually, you eat when you are stressed because food brings you a sense of comfort. You may have your own comfort foods. Commonly eaten foods to relieve stress are sweets such as chocolate, ice cream, cookies or candy. Salty and fatty foods such as potato chips and pizza are also common foods. These foods contain higher fat and salt content and are generally lacking in nutrition. This leads to consuming an excess of calories and, ultimately, weight gain.
2. Stress Hormones and Weight Gain
When you are under a great deal of stress, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. The release of cortisol has been linked with the buildup of abdominal fat. In one study, slim women gained weight due to their inability to deal with stressful life conditions. Being under a great deal of stress causes physiological changes that can lead to cravings and a change in eating patterns.
3. Stress and Slow Metabolism
When your body releases an excess of cortisol, this interferes with your metabolic processes. The release of stress hormones has been linked with a slowing down of the metabolism. So when you are dealing with a lot of stress, you may be eating the same amount of food as before but not burning off as many calories as you used to.
4. Stress and Appetite Loss
Stress is generally associated with weight gain because of the changes it creates in your body and the cravings it results in. However, in some cases, stress may lead to a loss of appetite and, therefore, weight loss. In other cases, stress may overstimulate the thyroid gland leading to not only greater appetite but also faster burning off of those calories.
If you are dealing with a lot of stress and find that it is interfering with your weight loss efforts, the best thing to do is to tune into why you are eating. Ask yourself before you snack or sit down for a meal whether you are truly hungry. If you realize that you are stressed, replace food with an activity that reduces your stress and makes you feel better. Walking, hanging out with friends, meditation or reading a good book are just a few options.