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Stress and Weight Gain

Stress and Weight Gain

Understanding Stress
Are you all too familiar with the moments of panic that accompany certain situations? The heart-stopping second of dread when you realize you might have forgotten something? The feeling that your stomach is in your throat because there just isn’t enough time to do all you have to do?

Moments like that are detrimental to your health. But the good news? They can be avoided. When we feel stressed, our body’s fight-or-flight response is taking off. Even when we are in no apparent ‘danger,’ our body is capable of producing these feelings. Stress comes from many different sources. They can be physical, social, or psychological. Below are examples of different stressors. Do you identify with any of these?

- Physical: infection, pain, over exercising, alcohol, being overweight, etc.

- Social: marital problems, financial issues, etc.

- Psychological: anxiety, depression, etc.

How Does Stress Cause Weight Gain?

Along with the stomach-sinking feeling, this system triggers insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when the body’s response to insulin is reduced. This means more insulin is needed to have an effect on the body and blood sugar levels rise. Insulin resistance leads to weight gain. As stated above, weight gain alone is an added stressor to many people. 

When the body is in a state of stress/danger, it doesn’t digest properly. This increases hunger and metabolism slows way down. 

Weight gain from stress also leads to physical problems. Carrying extra weight puts more stress on your joints, bones, and even affects your hormonal balance.

The Hormonal Imbalance

Chronic stress can eventually lead to hormone imbalances. Below is a brief explanation of the effect stress has on our hormones.

    • Cortisol is released the minute our body is threatened. This characteristic is why cortisol is called the ‘stress hormone.’
    • The release of cortisol lowers our sensitivity to leptin. This is the hormone that signals the brain that we are full.
    • Surprise! We feel hungry, again. This leads us to eating more and craving sugary foods; thus promoting weight gain.

How To Deal with Stress

- Find an outlet. Do something that you enjoy and takes your mind off of the stressors of your day. Hiking, reading, working out, stretching, meditation, journaling, are all great ways to break away from the chaos of your day. 

- Purposefully set aside time during your week to take time for yourself. Even if it is fifteen minutes, it is important to give yourself a break. 

- Prioritize. Do things you have to do at the beginning of your day. Everything else you accomplish can then be seen as a bonus.

  • Take care of yourself; eat real foods, get outside, and practice proper hygiene. 
  • Talk to someone; it can be a family member, close friend, or professional. 

Too Busy Bullets:

  • Stress comes from many different sources and activates the fight-or-flight system.
  • When the body is stressed, hunger increases and metabolism slows down causing weight gain.
  • Hormones can get out of whack when stressed; also leading to weight gain.
  • Find a way to relax and take some time for yourself to lessen your stress levels. 

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