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Feeding and Diet

Can stress cause weight gain?

Some people saying things like ‘I can’t diet; I am very stressed out these days’ are very common especially among women. It always seems like all your trials to lose weight do not work when you are stressed.

Is stress a reason for overeating and weight gain?

Studies have shown that there is a clear link between stress and overeating. During times of stress, you tend to increase your compulsive eating behaviour with frequent trips to the fridge and craving certain foods. And most foods that you tend to indulge in are high-calorie sweets which have a calming and soothing effect.

How does stress cause you to gain weight?

Recent studies suggest that the tendency to overeat during times of stress is biologically driven and is part of a stress response system within the body.

Making it simpler & easier:

Hormones and brain cells shape your eating behaviour. During periods of stress, ‘happy messengers’ in the brain like serotonin begin to malfunction and this leads to you overeating to gain emotional satisfaction, which in turn not only leads to excess weight but to other problems like fatigue, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

Hormones can cause weight gain

Cortisol, a stress hormones’ secretion varies among individuals. Every individual is biologically wired to react differently to stress. Studies have proven that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol in response to stress tend to eat more food like simple sugars and refined carbohydrates which can increase insulin levels in the blood.  This increase in insulin level leads to insulin resistance which in turn promotes fat deposition (especially in the stomach area) as the body cells stop processing glucose efficiently.

If you are more sensitive to stress, it is of utmost importance that you learn stress management techniques and maintain a low-stress lifestyle.

Healthy lifestyle choices to reduce stress:

    Enjoy exercise: Exercise increases the body’s cells sensitivity to insulin and can relieve mental stress

    Lose weight healthily if necessary: As little as 10% reduction in body weight can improve the cells’ sensitivity to insulin and thus efficiency of cells to function normally

    Choose the best Carbohydrates: Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars and aim for whole-grain breads and cereals rich in vitamins and minerals

    Maintain a healthy intake of fat with emphasis on the healthy oils: Like monounsaturated fats found in olives and olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and some nuts

    Follow a balanced varied diet & consume sweets in moderation: Treat sweets as a treat rather than a common food in your daily diet

    Manage stress and develop good sleeping habits: Stress and inadequate sleep increase the stress hormone cortisol and thus increases our tendency to eat more and deposit more fat

    Take a walk: Exercise is a great stress reliever as it releases Endorphins “happy hormones” in the brain

    Take a breath: Learn a few breathing exercises and practice them regularly

    Reframe your situation: Don’t intensify stressful situations. Try to look at things from a different perspective

    Take a break: Relax and get some change by entertaining or pampering yourself