by Caitlin H,
October 9, 2023
Traffic. Work. Grocery goods. Accounts. Stress is a part of life – and most of us deal with it every day. Fortunately, we tend to be adept at managing all of these common everyday stressors.
But when stress becomes overwhelming, it can make maintaining a healthy weight very difficult. Below, we look at the relationship between stress and weight gain and provide some methods to better manage stress, which is especially helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.
The natural process that causes stress
The World Health Organization defines anxiety as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation”. Whenever we encounter something difficult, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol and adrenaline to release glucose into our bloodstream. This process happens to help us “escape” the situation. Once the “danger” is over, our blood sugar drops and adrenaline wears off, forcing cortisol to work to boost your energy supply again.
This powerful chemical reaction is necessary to help us go about our daily lives, but it can also cause cravings as our blood sugar levels rise and fall. Many of us tend to overindulge in snacking, causing our bodies to store excess sugar as fat.
The effect of stress on metabolism
Cortisol is also the hormone responsible for slowing down your metabolism. 2015 study found that women who had experienced one or more stressful situations 24 hours before eating a high-calorie meal burned 104 fewer calories than those who had not.
Unhealthy behaviors associated with stress
The relationship between stress and weight also goes beyond normal. Researchers have also linked stress to unhealthy habits including:
Bad nutrition: The more stress builds up, the more tired we feel and the less likely we are to plan ahead. This tends to lead us to “convenience” eating with things like fast food and junk food.
Emotional Eating: If you find yourself reaching for the bag of chips between meals or rummaging through the fridge late at night during particularly stressful times, you’re probably an emotional eater. This is a common response to stress, as overeating can give us temporary relief while making weight loss more difficult.*
Skipping a meal: On the other hand, you may find that more stress makes you eat less, especially if you’re juggling a lot of difficult things at once. You may forget to eat a meal because you are too busy, or you may not feel like eating at all. You may then overeat later to make up for the calories you lost earlier in the day. Either way, maintaining a healthy weight is even more difficult.*
Avoiding Exercise: When you’re stressed about something going on in your life or the many things on your to-do list, exercise can be one of the first things to help. The irritating thing is that many of us sit behind a desk all day or spend hours in traffic to get to and from work, which means less time to get the movement we need.
Sleep Disorders: Anxiety and insomnia go hand in hand. No matter how exhausted you are, there’s a good chance you can recall many nights lying awake in bed with the wheels of your mind spinning. Not getting enough rest can create an extremely unhealthy cycle, as the resulting exhaustion during the day can slow your metabolism and reduce your self-discipline when it comes to proper diet and exercise.
How to break the stress-weight cycle
No matter what you have on your plate, breaking the cycle of stress is more than possible. It is also vital to prioritize yourself. Doing this will help you maintain a healthy weight while making stress more manageable. Here are some simple ways to help you break the vicious stress-weight cycle:
Me-time is a modern way to describe the time you take for yourself. This can be time for exercise, meditation, journaling, reading, you name it. Give yourself at least 30 minutes of my time every day and behave as you would any other date or meeting. Block time out into your schedule and stick to it.
Whether it’s taking an hour to do yoga, 30 minutes to walk, 5 minutes to meditate, or 10 seconds to take a deep breath, incorporating mini stress-relieving activities can do wonders for improving your ability to cope. stress. Any of these activities will lower your cortisol levels, which can also help you maintain a healthy weight.
The things you put in your body matter — and they matter a lot. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Choose healthy, calorie-dense, nutrient-dense foods to keep you full and focused. If you struggle to find time to properly plan your meals, consider a healthy meal delivery service like Diet-to-Go.
At Diet-to-Go, our mission is to make healthy eating easy. We deliver chef-made, restaurant-quality meals straight to your door. We do all the planning and preparation, so everything you we have to do is heat and eat!
Do you have a coping method you use to manage stress? Help others by sharing it in the comments below!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about connecting with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key and people will have the most success losing weight if they engage in common sense healthy eating and fitness.