How Stress Can Lead to Weight Gain and What You Can Do About It
Modern life in America has led many people to eat calorie-rich unhealthy foods and be less active. As a result, about 1 in 3 American adults is obese or overweight. Adopting an active lifestyle and restricting calorie intake can help prevent weight gain, but there’s one more lifestyle factor that may keep us from getting rid of extra pounds – stress.
In this article, we are providing you a brief overview of how stress can lead to weight gain, as well as a few tips that you can use to keep anxiety from sabotaging your progress towards your weight-loss goals.
How Stress Triggers Weight Gain?
From sleeplessness to hormonal imbalance, stress influences our body in a variety of ways. Here are the three main ways stress triggers weight gain:
- Lack of Sleep – Stress leads to sleeplessness. When deprived of sleep, our body releases a chemical called ‘ghrelin’. Ghrelin stimulates our appetite, making it impossible for us to resist the temptation to eat more, even when we’re not really hungry.
- Hormonal Imbalance – Our body perceives stress to be a ‘threat’. Therefore, it releases adrenaline, a chemical that makes us feel less hungry. However, as our body becomes accustomed to everyday stress, adrenaline levels reduce, and our body releases cortisol – a hormone that’s responsible for food cravings.
- Psychological Effect – According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, for more than 40 percent of American adults, eating is the primary way to manage stress. When we feel stressed, we mindlessly savor a tub of ice cream or a pack of potato chips without focusing on the calorie content or nutritional value of the food.
How to Avoid Stress Eating?
Here are some evidence-backed ways using which you can fight food cravings triggered by stress and maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise – That’s right. Power out some push-ups or do crunches to fight stress-induced cravings. Exercise improves blood circulation, transports cortisol to the kidneys, and flushes it out of your body, thereby keeping your calorie intake in check.
- Limit Your Caffeine Intake – Caffeine, when consumed by a person who’s under stress, increases cortisol levels more than stress alone. This theory has been confirmed by researchers at the University of Oklahoma who conducted a trial and found that cortisol levels increased by 30 percent and stayed high for almost a day by individuals who took 600mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to around 6 cups of java. Therefore, to resist the cravings, reduce your caffeine intake!
- Get Some Sleep – As mentioned earlier, sleep deprivation leads to the release of a chemical called Ghrelin, which is a hunger-boosting hormone. In addition, lack of sleep increases cortisol levels as well. Together, the two hormones increase our appetite, making us eat more. Therefore, it is important to take a good night’s sleep in order to avoid hormonal imbalance and weight gain.
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