Ever notice how when you start to get stressed out you also pack on a few pounds? There are numerous ways that our bodies react to stress and gaining weight is a common one. There are also many ways in which stress can contribute to weight gain.
When we are under stress our bodies go into what is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. No matter what the cause of *Stress, our bodies react as though we need to flee from the danger and fight for our lives. A little extreme yes, but our survival mechanism is so engrained in us that our bodies know no other way to react. When our bodies enter into flight or fight mode (hypothalamus) there are a number of changes that occur-increased blood pressure and heart rate, quickening of breath, bursts of energy, and a change in thought patterns. This is the body's way of gearing up in case we need to run (literally) from whatever is stressing us. If we continue to remain stressed out for prolonged periods of time our health can actually become at risk.
Chronic stress leads to the body's production of cortisol which is known as the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain because it slows down metabolism, makes you crave foods that are not so good for you, alter blood sugar levels, and contribute to fat storage.
Stress can also cause you to feel an emotional need to overeat or to eat foods that are comfort foods. These include heavier foods such as potatoes, cream filled soups or sauces, and warm, heavy meals.
Depending on the cause of your stress, you may also make bad food decisions. For example, a single mother who is forced to work ten hours a day may feel stressed out and as if she has no time to cook. She may choose to eat fast food rather than cook a healthy home cooked meal. Stress can also render you too busy to exercise. If you are under a stressful time crunch at work you may find yourself with limited time to do anything but sleep. You can see how stress can easily lead to weight gain.
Of course, the best solution is really to avoid stress altogether. Stress not only causes weight gain but also *premature aging, wrinkles, and can even cause damage to your heart. The reality is that most of us will be exposed to stress at some point, the key is to managing it. If you find yourself constantly stressed out about your job, think about changing careers. Life is too short to live under constant stress and it is not worth the harm you are doing to your body or to your emotional state.
There are several ways in which stress can contribute to weight gain. One has to do with cortisol, a stress hormone. When we’re under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered in our bodies, leading to the release of various hormones.
Whether we're stressed because of constant, crazy demands at work or we're really in danger, our bodies respond like we're about to be harmed and need to fight for our lives (or run like heck). To answer this need, we experience a burst of energy, shifts in metabolism and blood flow, and other changes.
If you remain in this state for a prolonged amount of time due to chronic stress, your health becomes at risk. Aside from a host of other dangers,chronic stress can also cause weight gain -- which is why some products like Cortislim are marketed as diet aids.
Chronic stress and cortisol can contribute to weight gain in the following ways:
Metabolism -- Do you feel like you're prone to putting on more weight when you're stressed, even if you're eating the same amount of food as you always have? Too much cortisol can slow your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience. This also makes dieting more difficult.
Cravings -- OK, you're stressed. Do you reach for a nice salad or a pint of Ben & Jerry's? I'll bet on the latter. People experiencing chronic stress tend to crave more fatty, salty and sugary foods. This includes sweets, processed food and other things that aren’t as good for you. These foods are typically less healthy and lead to increased weight gain.
Blood Sugar -- Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia. Too much stress has even been linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health concerns that can lead to greater health problems, like heart attacks and diabetes.
Fat Storage -- Excessive stress even affects where we tend to store fat. Higher levels of stress are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. Unfortunately, abdominal fat is not only aesthetically undesirable, it’s linked with greater health risks than fat stored in other areas of the body.
Stress and weight gain are connected in other ways:
Emotional Eating -- Increased levels of cortisol can not only make you crave unhealthy food, but excess nervous energy can often cause you to eat more than you normally would. How many times have you found yourself scouring the kitchen for a snack, or absently munching on junk food when you’re stressed, but not really hungry?
While new research on nutrition seems to come out every day, and low carb diet books top the bestseller lists, many people continue to be overweight. This is because, even if we know what we’re supposed to be eating, there are additional factors that influence how much and what type of food we consume. One of these factors is stress, which is linked to increased emotional eating.
Emotional eating has many causes. The following are some of the main reasons - besides hunger - that stressed people eat:
*** Cortisol Cravings: Stress can bring on increased levels of cortisol, known as 'the stress hormone.' Cortisol has a beneficial function in the body, but excessive levels of cortisol brought on by chronic stress can cause a slew of problems in the body. Among other things, high levels of cortisol can create cravings for salty and sweet foods. In previous centuries, this enabled people to bulk up on foods that would sustain them during times when food is scarce; however, in modern times and industrialized nations, when food is rarely scarce, this previously adaptive mechanism causes excess weight gain.
Social Eating: Often people who are under stress will seek out social support, which is a great way to relieve stress. Unfortunately for dieters, when people get together — especially women — we tend to go out for a nice meal. Crying on your friend’s shoulder over a couple of hot fudge sundaes, going out for a night on the town and a plate full of fried appetizers, sharing a bowl of chips with the guys as you watch a game, or discussing the gory details of a nightmare date over cheesecake with your roommates (didn’t this occur in every episode of The Golden Girls?) are all social forms of emotional eating. It can make you feel better in the short term, but you may regret later.
Nervous Energy: When stressed or anxious, many people become 'orally fidgety.' Sometimes this leads to nail biting or teeth grinding, and often it leads to eating when not hungry. Many people,out of nervousness or boredom, just munch on chips or drink soda to give their mouths something to do.
Childhood Habits: Many of us have comforting childhood memories that revolve around food. Whether your parents used to reward you with sweets, fix your boo-boos with an ice cream cone, or make your favorite meal (or take you out to one) to celebrate your successes,you’d probably be in the vast minority if you didn’t develop some emotionally-based attachments to food while growing up. When in times of stress,few things can be as powerfully comforting or rewarding as your favorite food. Because many people don’t develop more effective coping strategies, this type of emotional eating is very common: people eat to celebrate, eat to feel better, eat to deal with the stress of being overweight.
Stuffing Emotions: Another emotional reason that many people eat is to quiet uncomfortable emotions. People who are uncomfortable with confrontation may deal with frustrations in their marriage with apiece of cake, for example, rather than with open communication. Food can take the focus off of anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, and a host of other emotions we’d sometimes rather not feel, and is often used for this purpose.
While there are many reasons for emotional eating, and it’s a prevalent fixture in our society, it’s not necessarily good for us, as anyone who’s watching their weight will tell you. If you’re an emotional eater, it’s important for you to be aware of this, keep an eye on your triggers, and develop some effective stress management techniques and coping skills so that your body stays healthy and you choose your diet, rather than feeling out of control.
Fast Food -- Experts believe that one of the big reasons we’re seeing more obesity in our society these days is that people are too stressed and busy to make healthy dinners at home, often opting to get fast food a the nearest drive-thru instead.
Too Busy to Exercise -- With all the demands on your schedule, exercise may be one of the last things on your to-do list. If so, you’re not alone. Americans live a more sedentary lifestyle than we have in past generations, yet our minds seem to be racing from everything we have to do. Unfortunately, from sitting in traffic, clocking hours at our desks, and plopping in front of the TV in exhaustion at the end of the day, exercise often goes by the wayside.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to reverse the pattern of weight gain and actually reduce your stress level and waistline at the same time.
** Premature aging - high grade organic naturally sourced supplements.
Prolonged high levels of cortisol can lead to heart disease and other health problems. ©iStockphoto.com
is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:
* Proper glucose metabolism
* Regulation of blood pressure
* Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
* Immune function
* Inflammatory response
Normally, it’s present in the body at higher levels in the morning, andat its lowest at night. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s 'flight or fight' (hyperthalamus) response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:
* A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
* Heightened memory functions
* A burst of increased immunity
* Lower sensitivity to pain
* Helps maintain homeostasis in the body
While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture,the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.
Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
* Impaired cognitive performance
* Suppressed thyroid function
* Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
* Decreased bone density
* Decrease in muscle tissue
* Higher blood pressure
* Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
* Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, stroke, the development of, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good”cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place.
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