How does stress cause Weight gain ?

Do you know that there is a relationship between time of eating and span of exercise to maximize weightloss ?
October 25, 2018

When we are stressed as humans , our body releases stress hormones in order to cope with the stress .

The major stress hormone of the body is cortisol which is produced from the adrenal glands .

Cortisol helps in the following processes

1) Helps the body to mobilize body fats , proteins and carbohydrates.

2) helps to reduce inflammation

3) regulates blood sugar

4) controls sleep and wake cycle

5) Boost energy levels .

The level of cortisol in the blood is governed by a negative feedback mechanism which means that once the brain senses a reduction in the levels of cortisol ( which is negative ) it sends signals through a pathway to effect release of the hormone from the Adrenal glands .

Most cells in the body have receptors for cortisol which means that when cortisol is released into the bloodstream they can attach to the cells and modify their functions.

Interestingly , when the body is on high alert from stress , cortisol levels increase and it shuts down or alters other functions which include the immune system , reproductive and DIGESTIVE system.

So basically when you are stressed , the metabolism of food you have taken slows down .

Other effects of increased cortisol could include :

  • Headaches
  • Concentration and memory failure
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of muscle
  • Low libido
  • Irritability
  • Tiredness .

When cortisol is increased over a sustained period of time it tilts the body to “stress mode ” where the body attempts to store fats while assuming that the person is undergoing a strenuous activity and would need the stored fats after that “strenuous period ” .

Most of these fats are however stored in the mid section leading to different shapes of bulging abdomen .

The release of cortisol also leads to an increase in the hormone insulin as well as an increase in the level of blood sugar .

So it’s a three pronged problem that happen almost simultaneously.

While the body releases more cortisol as a result of stress

The cortisol leads to an increase in insulin production

The cortisol also leads to an increase in blood sugar levels .

You will recall that insulin functions to reduce the amount of blood sugar in the blood stream ( mop up ) and cause them to enter into the cells .

Cortisol levels are usually lowest at night but when we fail to sleep or sleep properly , cortisol release is increased and there is subsequent increase in blood sugar levels .

Increased blood sugar levels leads to an increase in sugar cravings and that explains why sugar cravings are marked at night when we are finding it had to sleep .

How to combat stress and aid weightloss 

There are several techniques to aid stress reduction and by extension weightloss .

Use of foods and supplements

– Choline bitartrate supplements .
This is however found in meat , eggs .

– Gingko Biloba leaf extract

– L- Theanine which is found in most Teas

– increase intake of fiber and proteins ( especially lean proteins ) which result in increased metabolism to counter the effect of cortisol

– Citrus fruits especially orange are known to reduce the body’s stress levels .

Lifestyle modification

– Exercise increases body metabolism and counters the effect of cortisol while reducing the body’s stress level .

– Sleep for 7-8 hours at night as often as is possible

– take regular naps if you can

– take regular breaks at work especially for those who have desk jobs

– read newspapers , magazines , journals or novels on your areas of interest as much as you can .

– play games and riddles on whatever medium on regular basis

– spend time with loved ones

– listen to soothing music and learn to ” put your feet up ” every now and again .

– stay away from all gadgets like phones , iPads , laptops etc at least one hour before sleep

– reduce the lighting in your bedroom and sleep areas especially at night

– avoid quarrels and malice as much as is possible especially with persons you see regularly; spouses , partners and neighbors .

– meditation and even virtual reality for those who can avail it are also great tools for stress reduction .

Essentially we need to learn to take things easy , poke fun at the world around us and ourselves every now and again.

It’s been proven that we are much healthier and live longer when we are happier and exude that joy ; loosing a little weight in the process is a nice bonus .