Though the rule doesn’t apply to everyone, there is a scientific reason why most people tend to gain weight when they are experiencing prolonged stress in their life. It is because stress initiates a flight or fight response in your body. Your body thinks that it needs to prepare for the worst, so it starts to not only crave foods that are high in fats or sugars, it also starts to store it on your body more readily!
Understanding the stress response
When you are experiencing high levels of stress your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and you experience a flight or fight response. Part of this response is an overproduction of cortisol, which is also known as the ‘stress hormone’. Increased levels of cortisol, over an extended period of time, raise your insulin levels, which actually causes your blood sugar levels to drop. This is why your body starts to crave sweet or fatty foods, because it is trying to counteract this effect and bring your blood sugar levels back up again.
The problem is that because your body is also preparing for the worst outcome, it starts to store energy (fat) more readily. So this is why it is common for people who are experiencing ongoing stress in their lives to gain weight.
Stress is something we all experience from time to time, however letting it build up can be unhealthy. This is why it is important to incorporate relaxing activities and techniques into your everyday life. Even though everyone is different and what you find relaxing might not be the same as the next person, there are some general tips that tend to apply to everyone.
Here are some ideas for ways in which you can help reduce stress in your life:
- Exercise - Exercise is an excellent way to release tension, stimulating endorphins and other happy hormones, improving your quality of sleep and helping you to relax and unwind.
- Spend time in the fresh air - Being cooped up inside all the time is bound to cause stress and get you down. So pencil in a daily walk or activity that has you out in nature and breathing in the fresh air.
- Express yourself - dance, singing and art are all excellent ways of expressing yourself, as well as relaxing and calming your mind.
- Laugh with loved ones - When it comes to stress, laughter really is the best medicine. Make time to spend with family and friends so that you can let your hair down and have a good laugh.
- Meditate - Meditation comes in many different forms, from relaxation, guided visualisations to walking meditations. All meditations are designed to help calm your thoughts and relax your mind.