If you’re like most adults, you experience stress at least some of the time. This stress can cause a lot of problems, especially if you don’t learn how to handle it in healthy ways. One of the downsides of stress is that it can lead to weight gain or difficulty in losing weight. This can cause more stress, perpetuating the cycle and making it even more challenging. You may not realize it, but it’s the stress causing you to struggle with your weight, and here’s how it impacts you.
Increases Cortisol Production
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. It’s one of the most common culprits of hormonal weight gain. When you’re stressed, your body releases more cortisol, and this affects your body in multiple ways. Cortisol increases fat storage, meaning it opens pathways that cause your body to store and hang onto fat rather than burning it. It increases blood sugar, which can eventually lead to insulin resistance.
Another problem it causes is that your body goes into fight or flight mode. Your body goes into survival mode, making it more difficult for your body to lose weight. In survival mode, your body is trying to hold on to fat and muscle and maintain homeostasis.
Kicks Cravings Into High Gear
Have you ever noticed that when you feel stressed, you tend to overeat? You crave junky, sugary, and fattening foods that make you feel oh, so good. Stress causes you to want more. Part of the reason is that your body wants something to make it feel great. Comfort foods and processed sugar give your brain a high similar to that of drugs. This boost of feel-good hormones gives you a temporary fix, but keeps you further from your weight loss goals.
You need sleep to lose weight. Sleep helps your body heal and recover. Without sleep, though, your mental health suffers and your body doesn’t get what it needs. Stress causes sleep disruptions, tossing and turning, insomnia, and so much more. When you don’t take steps to manage your stress, your sleep will suffer, slowing your weight loss and health goals.
Ruins Your Workouts
You might think your 1-hour workouts, 6 days a week are going to help. But when you’re stressed, the workouts become counterproductive. Your body doesn’t efficiently build muscle mass, it doesn’t burn fat, and it can lead to mental and physical exhaustion. If you’re stressed, shorter workouts doing a less strenuous activity can actually lead to more weight loss. Walking when you’re stressed will offer more benefits than running at fast paces and lead to more effective weight loss.
Leads to Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Let’s be honest, stress leads to a lot of unhealthy habits. Adults who come home and drink every night or cope with drugs or food are often trying to manage their stress. Too much stress leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms and makes it harder to focus on your health and weight loss goals.
Ways to Reduce Stress
If you’re trying to lose weight, try to focus on reducing stress first. Learn how to handle stress without food, alcohol, or other drugs.
The breathing and gentle movements of yoga are a perfect way to reduce stress. People who start a regular Yoga practice for even just 10 minutes a day report feeling less stressed by circumstances and more at peace.
Practice being mindful of the things that trigger your stress response. People going through tough financial times often express feeling more stressed than usual. If you can get a handle on your finances, you should be able to reduce your stress.
Eat Nourishing Foods
When you nourish your body, it is less likely to respond to stressful situations as drastically. Nourishing your body means that your brain and muscles get everything they need to function. These foods also have the added benefit of aiding in weight loss because your body will crave junk less often.
Set Realistic Goals
You might want to lose 20 pounds a month. When you don’t reach this goal, it can lead to frustration and stress. But what if you set a more reasonable goal like 5 pounds of weight loss per month? When you hit this goal, you could celebrate it instead of feeling like you’re not making any progress.