Stress seems to be an ever-constant part of many of our lives these days. Over the past 18 months, I’ve had to deal with a significant amount of stress in my life on top of my regular stress. I had so much stress in my life, in fact, that I have seen some very negative effects directly related to stress. While I thought I had been doing a pretty decent job handling what came my way, the truth was that my body was suffering from it terribly. Only when I realized the correlation between my stress level and the way I felt physically was I able to make changes to truly reduce my stress. I can’t eliminate all the stress from my life but I can deal with it in a healthy and productive way.
Today’s post is by guest blogger Shelly Stinson. She explains how stress can affect your weight and overall health. But knowing how stress and weight are related isn’t enough, so you’ll also find practical tips to help keep stress at bay.
From rapidly approaching work deadlines to last minute “But mom, I know I told you I had to be there in an hour…” conversations with your kids, no one is immune from the stressors that life has to offer. And while most come and go without so much as a thought, they often have a lasting impact on our waistlines, due to biological and mental reasons.
The Biological Impact of Stress on Weight and Diet
Typically, most of us think of stress as nothing more than a feeling, one that is completely independent of our body’s internal functions, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We actually have a very physical response to stress that undoubtedly affects our body weight.
For example, when you’re under a great deal of stress, your body releases higher amounts of the hormone cortisol. Based on research, we know that cortisol is responsible for many healthy bodily functions, such as keeping your blood pressure stable. However, it can also contribute to non-healthy bodily functions. Perhaps the most notable one is its effect on your weight. It boosts your appetite while increasing the likelihood that your body will store food as fat—primarily in your midsection, which is the worst place for it.
The Mental Impact of Stress on Weight and Diet
There are mental impacts of stress on your waistline as well, because feeling anxious and tense all the time contributes to emotional eating. If you struggle with this yourself, then you already know how powerful negative emotions can be when it comes to craving foods that bring you comfort.
And because stress happens on a daily basis, choosing to cope by using food will certainly impact your body weight, and your health overall. In fact, a number of diseases and health conditions are often prompted by eating too much too often, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
What You Can Do About It
So what can you do to help combat these physical and mental responses to stress so that you don’t increase your belt size at the same time? Here are some tips to consider:
- Take the time to regularly decompress. Find things that make you feel calm and at peace, like maybe taking a walk or enjoying a long bath. Do them and do them often.
- Keep things in perspective. While some things may actually be urgent or stressful, a lot of times we make them seem life or death when they’re really not, which just adds unnecessary stress. Keep these types of things in perspective and don’t let them stress you out if they don’t really matter.
- Have a little faith. Even if you can’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel,” that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Have a little faith that you’ll get through the tough times and they might not feel so bad.
- Make your health a priority. Granted, it isn’t always easy to remember your health when other things are going on in your life, but making good food choices can help keep your body in tact while you’re going through them, if not reverse medical issues you already have. Like a woman by the name of Jil Larsen, who used juicing and integrative nutrition to help clear up her skin condition melasma.
Put stress in its place and you’ll find it easier to do the same with your weight!
Have you experienced the negative effects of stress? How do you deal with stress?
About Shelly: Shelly Stinson is a Denver, Colo.-based writer who enjoys taking on subjects in the fields of healthy living, eating, and exercising. She also loves exploring her city, traveling, and searching for the best breakfast in the country.