Can Stress Make You Fat?

We all are aware that stress can have a negative impact on our overall health and well-being, but a lesser known fact is that stress can also contribute to weight gain and difficulties in being able to lose excess weight. This makes it more important than ever for the health conscious person to be able to manage their stress effectively. So let’s take a look at how stress causes our bodies to gain weight.Crazy CortisolBasically, when we are stressed, our body produces the stress hormone cortisol. Whilst we do need cortisol in small doses to be able to function appropriately in emergency situations, having cortisol consistently running through our bodies (as is often the case in our modern lives) can have some serious negative consequences.Cortisol slows metabolism, affects blood sugar level, interferes with insulin secretion, increases fat storage – especially around the midsection- and promotes cravings for fatty, salty and sugary foods. It does this in its role to protect us. Back in the day when we hunted and gathered in the wild, we needed cortisol to help us to flee from dangers such as lions and tigers chasing us. These rare occasions when cortisol was needed ensured that we didn’t just freeze and get eaten- but instead had the endurance and energy to run for our lives (literally!).Cortisol on Modern LifeThe problem is, our bodies don’t know the difference between the dangers from a tiger chasing us, and modern everyday stressors such as crazy deadlines, personal crisis, tests and exams, and racing to meetings on-time.All of these situations cause the same spikes in cortisol that running from a tiger caused- but not just once in a while. Every day, all day (for some people), there is cortisol running through our blood streams wreaking havoc with our systems. Plus, if you are stressed, you can’t relax and get the rest you need, which further spikes cortisol production – creating a vicious cycle. So what can you do to minimize the production of cortisol and to manage your stress appropriately?Managing Stress With HerbsThere are a number of methods that are easy (and not too stressful!) to incorporate into your life. There are various herbs that you can take to nourish your nervous system – depending on whether you want to strengthen and restore it, or to encourage calm and relaxation. Try adaptogens such as ginseng or holy basil, or relaxing herbs such as chamomile and lemon balm. You can often brew these herbs into a relaxing tea- take 5 minutes out of your busy schedule to drink it while taking a breather and relaxing during your hectic day.Load Up on CalciumIt can also be beneficial to get plenty of calcium, which has a calming effect on the nervous system. Calcium stores can be depleted by cortisol, so it is a good idea to load up on calcium-rich foods such as leafy greens or bone broth during dinner.Cut Back on CaffeineIt is also recommended that you avoid caffeinated beverages as much as you can as these can affect your sleep patterns and your overall nervous system function. Explore coffee alternatives such as black tea, green tea, yerba mate, or rooibos to replace your usual caffeine fix.If you are struggling with weight loss and know that you also lead a stressful life, then finding ways to minimise stress and maximize relaxation opportunities is key to really being successful in your journey.

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