It Isn’t Just Your Diet

The link between Stress and Weight Gain

It Isn't Just Your DietIt’s an unfortunate fact of life: Today, most people experience stress in their daily lives, whether at home or someplace else. Most of us understand that feeling stress can be unpleasant, leading to moodiness and lack of sleep — even depression. But now, new research is showing that all that stress we deal with is also making many of us gain weight, which in turn can cause stress levels to climb. The result: a cycle of weight gain that can be difficult to break.

Stress and weight gain are related:

Stress causes neurochemical changes in your body, and some of those changes include the release of so-called “fight or flight” hormones. These hormones developed as the body evolved to help us run from danger, and feeling stress which, triggers the hormones to circulate at higher levels. One of those hormones is adrenaline.

When adrenaline is released, your body produces another steroid hormone called cortisol. If you’ve seen weight loss commercials or ads, you may have heard cortisol referred to as the “belly fat hormone.” Cortisol causes you to feel hungry, often for a long period of time. It can also cause an imbalance in blood sugar and insulin levels, causing your body to store more fat. And finally, stress reduces your body’s ability to burn fat, which means more is stored around your belly, thighs and other areas.

In fact, a recent study showed the metabolic issues associated with stress can result in a weight gain of as much as 11 pounds in a single year. That doesn’t even take into account the fact that stress causes many people to reach for fatty, sugar-filled “comfort foods,” another major contributor to stress-related weight gain and obesity.

For most people, weight gain and obesity are the result of multiple factors: a more sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, lack of nutritional education, fast-paced lifestyle, stress — the list goes on and on. What that means is that weight loss efforts need to address all those factors to get the best results — and to make sure your results are long-term. Unfortunately, many people who successfully lose weight through an unsupervised program of diet and exercise soon see those pounds creep back. That’s because they’re only addressing a few factors — not all of them.

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