Stress and Weight Gain
Today’s fast paced, high stress environment may be showing it’s effects in more ways than you know. When you are stressed, the hormone cortisol is released by the adrenal glands. When cortisol is released, it sends a series of messages throughout the body and one of these messages is to ultimately store glucose as fat for later use. This fat is usually stored in the belly region because that is the most accessible area. This normal response protects us during times of stress, especially if we are in imminent danger.
The problem is that many of us are under constant stress and regardless if the danger is real or not, our body still perceives it the same way. It reacts in an identical manner causing our adrenal glands to produce cortisol until the stressor goes away. The problem with chronic stress is that the stressful trigger does not go away so the body does not shift back to normal. This continual release of cortisol makes us keep storing energy as fat and instead burn calories from carbs and lean muscle. The result is that we add to the belly fat and may have difficulty losing it because it is a protected energy reserve.
This is not to be taken lightly because fat around the midsection puts you at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. In addition, if you continue to be stressed you will eventually end up with adrenal burnout or fatigue which will bring on a whole other slew of health problems. Many of these may further aggravate weight gain by causing food cravings, impaired digestion, tiredness, low energy, depression, inactivity and insomnia.
Burnout begins subtly but can rapidly become out of control. The 4 stages of burnout include:
Stage 1: Difficulty waking up, slumps in the afternoon, trouble winding down at night but for the most part you are okay.
Stage 2: Difficulty waking and staying awake, you need a lot of coffee to be energized, you are tired throughout the day and are not sleeping well at night.
Stage 3: The stress is now affecting your work and family life. You are extremely irritable, chronically tired and have a hard time making it through the day.
End stage: Exhaustion. You can barely function.
So take care to mange the stress in your life. Recognize the effect it is having on you mentally, physically and spiritually. Stress is never going to completely go away, but you can manage it. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat regularly throughout the day, avoid stimulants, make quiet time for yourself and if necessary, seek professional help.
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