Why Stress Leads to Weight Gain
It’s important to remember that external factors cause internal responses and if you’re dealing with excessive amounts of stress, realize that your body is working hard to respond to that stress.
When dealing with stress, our body’s make short term adjustments in order to optimize it’s ability respond to a variety of threats. However, one thing the body is not very good at is making plans to deal with chronic stress over a long period of time, which is how many of us live our daily lives – under significant amounts of stress.
Below are a few ways that your body actively responds to stress and how that response could be impacting your weight.
Stress and Weight: How and Why Stress Leads to Weight Gain
Our mind and body are very good at quickly processing and reacting to significant threats. It’s arguably one of the main reasons our species has survived and continues to thrive. Our ability to react and respond to stress have evolved and improved over time, however, our bodies are not as good at maintaining reactions to stress over sustained periods of time.
The “Fight or Flight” Hormone Response
We’ve all heard of the “fight or flight” response where our mind and body quickly evaluate a threat and then make a decision whether to stay and fight, or run and live to fight another day.
While we typically think of this reaction as a response to physical threats, like being chased by a large animal, our body has a much more difficult time making the distinction. Our body responds to mental threats, like dealing with difficult co-workers or actively stressing over a deadline at work, the same as it does to physical threats.
Whether dealing with physical or mental stressor, the body’s response is controlled by it’s ability to regulate hormones, like Adrenaline, in order to improve awareness and specific functions of the body. While most responses are great in the short term, increased hormonal responses over long periods of time can have significant impacts and long-term effects on the body.
Increased Adrenaline and Cortisol
Our body responds to acute, short-term stress by increasing production of the adrenaline hormone into the bloodstream. This response has an immediate impact on the body; increasing heart rate and blood pressure, expanding air passages, increasing blood flow to the muscles, enlarging pupils, and much more. Basically, the body is preparing for anything and everything, impacting every major system in your body.
Adrenaline also increases cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates energy in the body, including blood glucose. This is important because during increased periods of stress (short and long term), the body adjusts it’s cortisol levels to ensure the body has enough energy to survive the threat. Then, the body naturally looks for ways to refill energy that’s been lost to increased adrenaline, even if there’s been little to no energy loss.
Imagine that your body is preparing to deal with a significant physical threat (running from a dog). Even if your stress is due to a work deadline, which will require significantly less energy output than running from a dog would require, your body will respond the same and begin looking for ways to refill it’s energy reserves.
The body’s need to restock it’s energy reserves results in increased food cravings, even if it’s not really hungry or calorie deficient. Unfortunately, as we deal with continuous stress on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis, our body continues to respond by storing energy as fat even though the needs and responses to most of our daily stressors aren’t physical.
Losing Weight With Hormone Therapy
In addition to increased fat storage, stress has other significant impacts on the body and it’s many systems, including your metabolism, digestion, blood glucose, cholesterol, fertility, and more. As you can see, understanding your body and how it works makes it much easier to identify the issues that could be causing you to gain weight and/or hindering your ability to lose weight. Working with an endocrinologist will help you identify and address these issues that are impacting your short and long term health.
Ask about our Weigh Less for Way Less complete weight loss program.
Next week we’ll discuss 5 Daily Tips To Reduce Stress and Cortisol Levels.