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Is Stress Making Me Fat?

Is Stress Making me Fat?

Just ask yourself these questions

Do I eat more when I’m feeling stressed?

Do I eat when I’m not hungry?

Do I eat to feel better (to calm myself when I’m feeling sad, mad, bored etc.?

Do I reward myself with food?

Does food make me feel safe?

Do I feel out of control around food?

A yes to these and you are on the emotional eating bandwagon

Many of us have gobbled down a chocolate bar or two  when we’ve been stressed.  Maybe it was chips or apple pie. Whatever it was, aside from the momentary pleasure you received from putting it in your mouth, it probably didn’t reduce your stress. Because the truth is, stress eating may just make everything worse and cause you to put on some extra pounds as well. So to the question ‘Is stress making me fat?’ the answer is a resounding yes.

But it might be even worse than you think. Chronic stress not only affects appetite, it also directly changes your biology so you put on more body fat. That’s not to say stress is the only cause of weight gain, overeating, too many fried foods and lots of sweets play a role as well. But if you’ve been trying to lose weight without success, managing your stress level may be the key to achieving your weight loss goals.

When you’re stressed, you eat less healthfully. You reach for comfort foods. You’re less motivated to exercise. You sleep less well, and that all leads to a state where you gain weight. It’s a feedback loop: You eat inappropriately, you gain weight and you feel more stress.”

Chronic stress affects our food cravings, too: It raises blood levels of the hormone cortisol, which increases our appetites for sugary and fatty foods. Not a lot of people get stressed out and eat a salad.  You eat something sweet and you get a burst of insulin, which is satisfying in the short term. You’re rewarding yourself for feeling down.

These foods may boost serotonin, improving mood, but only momentarily. You are wrongly medicating stress with food.  The sugary foods and refined carbohydrates are habit-forming.

But stress doesn’t stop there in its crusade to fatten you up: It also changes the way your body metabolizes food. Chronic stress means more cortisol, and that can lead to increased abdominal fat. It’s a dangerous kind of obesity to have. a compound your body releases under stress, Neuropeptide Y, increases both the size and number of fat cells (especially around the belly), and is linked with glucose intolerance. Think: Diabetes and fatty liver risk.

Don’t want love handles? Get a handle on stress. Managing stress can contribute to weight loss In one study from the at the University of California, San Francisco, overweight women who entered a four-month mindfulness program for stress eating had less circulating cortisol and abdominal fat.

De-stressing is easier said than done, of course. First step is to ask yourself, ‘What can I change in my life that will reduce my stress?’ The number-one stress buster is exercise. Anything you do to increase your physical activity will reduce stress. Also, a plant-based diet, with whole foods, including seafood and green vegetables rich in folate may modify the stress response.

Find the tools that work for you. Sometimes small things can relieve stress such as decluttering. Just take a few minutes to clean out your desk. Not everyone has to see a psychologist, or do yoga, or meditate, or take anti-anxiety medications, or take a mindfulness class. But everyone needs to have a routine, a way to manage stress and build resiliency. It’s about a different way of living your life. It’s about connecting your work/life balance, your supportive friends, your exercise, eating properly, sleeping effectively. It’s all interrelated.”

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.