Chewed out by your boss? Had another less-than-stellar date? You feel out of control and powerless, with no clue how to fix whatever it is that needs fixing. Comfort is your immediate thought – you’ll do anything to feel better, even if it’s only a temporary fix.
If your first thought is to stop by the ice cream parlor and pick up a tub of chocolate anything, you’re not alone. There are scientific reasons you crave comfort foods after a bad day, but knowledge is power, and you can break the cycle of stress-induced weight gain.
Weight gain and stress
It seems like the cycle is endless. We eat when we are stressed, and being overweight adds to our stress. Here’s why.
- When your brain feels stress, whether the stress is caused by a grumpy co-worker or a speeding ticket, it floods your body with neurochemicals (mainly cortisol) and adrenaline. These hormones make you alert and ready for action, so you can flee the source of your problem. This is actually helpful during a real crisis, but chronic ongoing stress is damaging.
- Once adrenaline wears off, your body still has cortisol floating around, triggering hunger. After all, your body needs energy following a crisis. The cortisol also instructs your body to store fat in the event of another emergency, usually in the belly.
- Thousands of years ago, a crisis involved lots of physical activity; today, it usually involves sitting in front of a computer screen. Unfortunately, our biology hasn’t caught up to our current reality, so it will instruct you to eat more food whether you’ve been chased by a lion or had your email account hacked.
- Stress hormones trigger insomnia, which may disrupt the way our bodies use ghrelin and leptin, which are natural appetite chemicals.
Stress-induced weight gain is an unfortunate reality, but you can do something about it. Learning how to stop weight gain due to stress takes practice, but these recommendations can have a positive influence on other areas in your life.
How to stop weight gain from stress
- Lace up your sneakers and get some exercise. Physical activity decreases cortisol levels and increases feel-good hormones, a win-win.
- When you’re thinking about getting physical, consider taking up yoga and meditation. Both of these practices encourage mindfulness and decrease stress.
- Not all activities should be centered around food. Hiking, reading books and volunteering at the charity of your choice are all rewarding things that don’t involve eating.
- Believe in yourself. You can do whatever you put your mind to, and a healthy weight is definitely achievable.
- Consider journaling. Writing down your thoughts and feelings about your daily life is a healthy way to gain insight into your food and stress triggers.
Stress not only impacts how much you weigh, it affects almost every aspect of your life. Learning to cope with stress helps you become a better person overall, and that’s what good health is all about.
The important thing is to start small. If you make one manageable change at a time, you will see positive results throughout different areas of your life, not just involving your waistline. If you are the all-or-nothing type, then go big and make sweeping changes all at once. Do what you feel comfortable with and set yourself up to be a success, because you can do anything.
Need help beating the never-ending cycle of stress-induced weight gain? Contact BMI of Texas for support and guidance so we can help you learn how to stop weight gain and stress.
You may also be interested in: Do I Qualify for Weight Loss Surgery Quiz?