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Stress and Weight Gain - Stress Makes You Fat?

Stress Makes You Fat - Man Eating Hot Dog

Stress Makes You Fat! - Could It Be True?

Could it be true that stress makes you fat? Is it possible that stress could be part of the cause of your weight problems? Experts appear to think that there is a relationship between stress and weight gain. If you want to stay in tip-top shape, this makes it even more important to manage your levels of stress. Read on to find out whether stress can make you fat and what steps you can take to prevent this.

It is thought that high levels of the chemical "Cortisol" in our bodies may be responsible for the laying down of extra abdominal fat around our middles and may hinder weight loss. Cortisol has often been called the "stress hormone" as it is found in the body in higher quantities at times of stress. So how does Cortisol work?

As well as playing a part in healing and immunity, Cortisol is responsible for regulating levels of energy, appetite and blood sugar. It plays a major part in the "fight or flight" response - our chemical reaction to any perceived threat which puts the body on standby to basically either run or fight for your life. During this response, higher levels of Cortisol are released into the body to achieve instant mobilisation of the necessary muscles to move us. It also helps to suppress other bodily functions that are not strictly essential at the time. Obviously this was necessary in olden days when wild animals would either be hunter or prey. After the danger has passed, the additional levels of Cortisol increase our appetite to ensure that we make up the additional calories that we should have burned from the increased physical activity.

However, the stresses and tensions of today are more likely to relate to perceived threats and dangers - the thoughts in our minds that we can't cope with all the demands made upon us. It is highly unlikely that much physical activity is going to be involved. The hormones that are produced therefore hang around in our bodies with no outlet unless we dissipate them by carrying out some physical activity. This can be damaging and is one reason why exercise is so good for stress.

So it is easy to see why high levels of Cortisol could wreak havoc with our appetites. But hold on a second! It can't all be hormonal, can it? The problem with stress is that it is often accompanied by poor diet as people who are suffering make bad decisions about what to eat. We may be suffering from a lack of time or we may eat for emotional reasons and not because we are really hungry. It is often much quicker and easier to grab a fast food snack when you are stressed than to think about the high quality nutrients that your body really needs in order to fight back. And top of the list for comfort eating are often sweet sugary snacks and high fat junk foods. Only these tend to satisfy our cravings and make us feel better instantly. However, this is a short-term boost and highly likely to result in weight gain if these cravings are indulged over any length of time.

So, there does appear to be a relationship between stress and weight gain. Stress not only makes us hungrier, so it would seem, but we are more likely to fill up on calorie-laden junk foods. Added to this, it is thought that higher Cortisol levels over time promote more efficient storage of body fat, in particular around the abdomen. It may also be responsible for digestive problems and increased cholesterol which can also contribute to heart disease. Bearing all this in mind, it is no wonder that it can be easy to gain weight during times of stress which then becomes difficult to lose.

We have seen that it is possible that stress makes you fat but is this situation preventable? Well, there are supplements that claim to reduce levels of Cortisol in the body but by far the best solution is to manage stress in the first place so it does not get out of hand. Now that you are aware of the additional problems that unhealthy eating can cause you during times of stress, you can do your best to maintain a balanced diet. A healthy diet is better than a weight reduction diet during tough times. If you know that you are susceptible to comfort and junk food eating, try to minimise this or find alternatives to high-sugar, high-fat snacks. Increase your levels of physical exercise where possible and make use of the many tools to fight stress. You will find plenty of information on this site. I wish you success and happiness.

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