Stress has a significant impact on your body. Besides affecting you mentally, the consequences of stress can also present physically. During persistent, stressful periods in your life, you may notice yourself feeling hungrier than usual. You may even realise that you’ve gained a few extra pounds.
Whether it’s due to the effect of the stress hormone cortisol or unhealthy emotionally-induced behaviours, there’s no doubt that stress plays a role in weight gain. While stress may reduce your appetite initially, chronic stress boosts your hunger and causes you to gain weight in the long run.
With that said, here are some ways that stress affects your appetite and causes weight gain.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone. Just like an alarm system, cortisol fuels your body ‘fight or flight’ response in times of crisis. It plays a vital role in maintaining your body’s functions such as managing how your body uses nutrients from food, reducing inflammation and regulating your blood pressure.
However, too much cortisol can wreak havoc on your body’s essential functions. This happens during periods of long-term stress.
When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to reach for a sugary doughnut than a salad. This is a result of a rise in the level of cortisol in your body during stressed-filled times. A high level of cortisol leads to higher insulin levels, which in turn causes your blood sugar to drop. You will then crave for sugar, fatty foods that will raise your blood sugar.
Your body is likely to store sugar, especially during periods of stress. It’s usually stored as abdominal fat, which tends to be particularly difficult to shed. So, if you’re noticing a belly bulge, your sugar cravings could be the culprit.
In addition to craving unhealthy food, facing unpleasant emotions can make you eat more than usual. Stress often creates an emotional void and a sense of emptiness. As a result, you might turn to food to fill the void. While your favourite snacks can provide you with some temporary comfort, eating as a coping mechanism becomes a cycle that leads to weight gain.
Weight gain can also cause cellulite to form on your body. While cellulite is harmless, it causes a lumpy, dimpled appearance on your skin due to an increase in fat cells. This can result in low self-esteem and confidence levels, which can cause further stress.
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Managing your stress
Here’s some good news: stress is manageable and the weight gain associated with it is avoidable. A great way to manage your stress is through regular exercise. Exercising pumps up your endorphins, which are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. It also helps to take your mind off your worries and acts as a mood-booster. Most importantly, it’s essential for maintaining a healthy weight.
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