Can Stress Make You Fat?

Can Stress Make You Fat?

One of the most popular words in the world, stress refers to an intense feeling of emotional or physical tension. It often results from being in or anticipating an unfavorable situation for an extended duration of time. It can leave you frustrated, angry, or nervous and can severely increase your reaction time.

Caused by a hormone called cortisol, stress or nervousness is helpful in short bursts because it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. However, its positive uses are not too many and this hormone can rather cause more harm to our health and well-being.

A higher rate of production of cortisol hormone can cause more anxiety and tension, thus hastening you to gain weight besides acting erratically. With regards to weight management, it may pose many difficulties for you to lose some pounds even when the situation that made you tense is long past over.

This makes it more important than ever for the health-conscious person to manage their stress effectively. Let’s take a look at how stress causes our bodies to gain weight and we can set it right.

Cortisol Hormone Function

When we are under the pump, our body produces a stress hormone called cortisol. Whilst we do need cortisol in small doses to be able to function appropriately in emergencies, having cortisol consistently running through our bodies can have some serious negative consequences.

This stress-producing hormone is important in several conditions too. Starting from primitive times, cortisol was important to keep human beings on their toes so didn’t just freeze and get eaten, but rather had the endurance and energy to run for their lives.

Too much cortisol can make you ill

The mal-effect of stress manifests itself in low energy levels, loss of appetite, headaches, cramps, pain in the stomach, irregular sleep patterns, and just about a feeling of everything being swamped. This is scarier than it reads out and this is the least that cortisol does to most of us to varying degrees.

The problem is, our bodies don’t know the difference between the dangers of a tiger chasing us, and modern everyday stressors such as crazy deadlines, personal crisis, tests and exams, and racing to meetings on-time. However, its long-term effects on our health are just as horrible.

Effects of stress:

All of these situations cause the same spikes in our tension and nervousness as that of running from a tiger. For some people, this cortisol keeps on running through our bloodstream all day around, wreaking an untold amount of havoc on them. If you are stressed, you can neither relax nor get the rest you need, which further spikes cortisol levels to create a vicious cycle.

Effects of high cortisol levels or stress in the human body:

  • High blood pressure

  • Increased heart rate

  • Digestive system disorders- nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, etc.

  • Lower levels of energy

  • Weight gain, especially if affected by thyroid or mental disorders

  • Reduced sex drive

  • Pains in various parts of the body like the head and stomach

  • Tense muscles

  • Sleeplessness

  • Anger

  • Fear and apprehension

  • More vulnerable to infections

  • Trembling of hands and legs

How to reduce stress naturally?

How to lower cortisol levels?

There are a number of methods that are easy (and not too stressful) that you can follow to have a carefree and happy 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. We highly recommend drinking such fragrant teas while taking a breather and relaxing during an otherwise hectic day. They would help you lower your anxiety levels by a small margin almost immediately.

You should also go for meditation or Yoga, especially if you are battling with depression for quite some time now. Ignoring this stage might make you overly fat or skinny, but would offer you no positive benefits. Mental ailments are less spoken of but they can cause a huge dent in your self-image.

PS: You should especially consult a mental therapist if you are suffering from mental disorders like depression, general anxiety disorder, PTSD, etc. You may also switch to an on-demand video conferencing session with a professional in complete privacy through a smartphone. Here’s a link to it.

Foods that reduce cortisol

Prolonged exposure to highly stressful situations can cause your cortisol levels to rise, thus interfering with your capability to think and work clearly. However, you can try increasing your intake of calcium and reducing that of caffeine to reduce it. Consulting a wellness expert online in the above manner too would help, and you can try it as and when you think you are under tension or anxiety.

Note: You can also try Zumba dance or yoga sessions for better results.

Load Up on Calcium

It 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.

Here’s research that states the effect of regularly taking calcium on weight management. It states that a 1000 mg increase in the intake of white mineral led to an 8 kg difference in body weight. It could also lead up to 3% of the change in body weight over a period of few months.

Cut Back on Caffeine

It 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. The same rings true for consuming alcohol or eating junk foods or being an emotional eater too. All these habits can prove detrimental to your health in the longer run.

The change starts with Mother Nature

Going for herbal and green teas and trying Yoga can put you at ease with your life and reduce your anxiety levels. If you are struggling with weight loss and know that you also lead a stressful life, then finding ways to minimize stress and maximizing relaxation opportunities would be the key to being successful in your journey.