Keeping weight in check can be a tough task. On top of making sure you are active enough, being mindful of what you eat may be even more important. It can just seem like being disciplined in the gym and what you eat only helps so much. It is easy however to have weight gain creep up on you if you are not well aware of the effects of a silent component to weight gain; stress. Stress is the main culprit to the weight gain of many Americans, so keeping stress to a minimum is as crucial as exercise and diet.
Stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger - whether it's real or imagined - the body's defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the "stress response." Stress of course may be more recognizable in life situations like family or work. When the body is under any amount of stress it releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone wreaks havoc on the body in the long run.
When cortisol is released it puts the body in this “survival mode” when it comes to appetite and even sleep. Appetite for most is heightened, so overeating usually takes place. When it comes to sleep, the body is restless, so it is hard to catch those “z’s” which also feeds into weight gain because the lack of sleep causes sugar levels to become imbalanced which effects the body’s metabolism. Stress also has adverse effects of blood pressure which in return affects the heart and blood flow. Once again, all which are not good if you are trying to keep your weight down.
Some common physical signs are:
- Low energy.
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles.
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat.
- Frequent colds and infections.
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability.
Stress can be managed but it does take effort and some lifestyle changes. The first step is getting stress levels to drop is evaluating your life and literally listing the aspects of your life that cause the most stress. The objective is to not do away with those things, but simply restructure and reprioritize things. If work is stressful and you find you do not spend much time at home with family and friends (which leads to more stress), put your focus on the things that are most important which will help you better approach the other things that are stressing you out.
Some other ways to help with stress are:
- B Vitamins
- Limit internet and cellphone use
- Healthy eating
- Power naps