Have you ever found yourself eating a mighty burger and fries as you furiously work to meet an approaching deadline? Or maybe you have treated yourself to a tub of ice cream to recover from an abrupt breakup? If you recognize any of the two scenarios, you are not alone. Stress is known to stimulate our appetite, making us crave for unhealthy foods even when we are satiated.
This article will help you understand how stress causes weight gain and what you can do to prevent anxiety from interfering with your weight loss efforts.
How Stress Works As a Trigger for Weight Gain?
From affecting the quality of sleep to stimulating the release of hormones, stress influences our body in a number of ways. Below are the three primary reasons stress leads to weight gain.
- Release of Hormones
Our body releases several hormones when it detects the presence of a threat. In the short-term, stress causes our body to release adrenaline, which makes us feel less hungry. However, as we become accustomed to stress and the effects of adrenaline wear off, our body releases cortisol — a hormone that’s the major culprit behind our cravings for junk food.
- Effects of Anxiety
According to the American Psychological Association, ‘emotional eating’ is the primary stress management strategy used by over 40 percent of Americans. When we are anxious, we mindlessly eat a whole pack of cookies or a hamburger without focusing on the taste, quantity, or nutritional value of the food. As a result, we are likely to eat more, without feeling satiated or full.
- Lack of Sleep
It is a known fact that stress affects the length and quality of sleep. Lack of sleep disrupts the release and function of leptin and ghrelin — chemicals that regulate appetite. Consequently, we remain unsuccessful at resisting the temptation to eat more and end up gaining more weight.
How to Beat Stress Fat?
Here are a few evidence-backed ways using which you can fight stress-induced food cravings and maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise is an effective stress reliever. It facilitates blood circulation, thereby transporting cortisol (the stress hormone) to the kidneys and flushing it out of your body.
- Pay Attention to What You’re Eating
As mentioned earlier, anxiety causes us to eat mindlessly. To prevent the weight gain caused by stress, it is important to be mindful of what you are eating. Slow down and savor each bite. This way, you can experience the feeling of being satiated and limit the amount of food you eat.
- Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Research suggests that when combined with stress, caffeine increases cortisol level more than stress alone. Therefore, next time you are feeling anxious about an upcoming business meeting or feeling stress about your credit card bills, choose decaf over a cup of java.
These three simple strategies should help you fight stress-induced weight gain. If you are still unable to lose weight, you may consider opting for Pathway FIT — a quick and simple test that will evaluate how your genes respond to different foods and provide you dietary and exercise recommendations.
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