Did you know that there is a direct link to stress, hormones and weight gain? It would be so much easier if we craved a large veggie-filled salad when we’re stressed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case — instead, we tend to look for comfort in food when we’re stressed out or anxious. Not only do our choices seem to change when we’re stressed, but our body actually processes food differently when we’re under stress.
This is called the fight or flight mode. Your hormones are naturally programmed to release chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol when you feel stressed. Elevated amounts of these hormones regularly give us feelings of hunger, putting us on an endless cycle of reaching for comfort foods and eating more than we need.
Another side effect is a slower metabolism. Those stress hormones being released regularly slows down the metabolism. Because stress messes with our brain’s wiring for rewards and our cortisol levels trick us into wanting more fat and sugar, we automatically head toward those comfort foods during times of stress.
Over this past winter, when I was going through several medical episodes and a major surgery with my husband, my stress levels were through the roof. I don’t remember actually giving in to the cravings, but I do know that even though I was trying to stay on a healthy diet, I gained 25 pounds that I absolutely did-not-need! And all of it was in the belly section, telling me that it was all caused by the stress I was under and the hormone cortisol. I’m sure that I did make some not so healthy choices he was in intensive care, mainly because I was coming home late and making food just for me. So I didn’t always make the kind of food I would have made for the two of us. One of the foods I craved big time were French Fries. I did make them healthier by baking them in the oven, but in hindsight, I could have made healthier options.
Finally, one of the most significant factors for making poor eating choices when you’re stressed out is lack of sleep. Lack of sleep affects the chemicals that control your appetite, which can begin another seemingly endless cycle of the hamster wheel. Make sleep a priority. Aim for 7-8 hours a night, even if you have to rearrange the schedule you’re accustomed to.
But now that you know where your stress is taking you, you can do something about it. First of all — name your stressors. What are the top things that cause you to stress? Comment below.
My top stressors are……….my husband’s health, work related, (J.O.B., not my coaching biz), and not enough time in the day.
It’s important to fit exercise into your schedule, even if all you have time for is a brisk 10-minute walk. When you do sit down for a meal, practice mindfulness instead of zoning out in front of your phone or the television. Stress is something that we can’t eradicate completely, but we cause a lot of the stress we undergo. For example, we feel stressed because we’re unorganized, unprepared, and our home is in disarray. These are all very common reasons for being under stress, and they’re so fixable! Make a plan to tackle the things that are causing you stress, and start chipping away at them.
You’ll be amazed at how much your digestion improves, your sleep quality improves, and you’ll feel lighter.