Stress contributes to weight gain in many different ways; one of the main problems in our society is that we consume ourselves in our work so much that we unconsciously tend to forget about our health. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts it is imperative that you find yourself an “out” basically something that you do that helps you unwind, unload, and reboot. When I am stressed I either go for a brisk run, or go relax in the sauna, by doing this it allows my mind to clear itself and think things through rationally. Studies have shown that sweating either from exercising or relaxing in a steam room or sauna helps minimize many forms of stress and more importantly the release of bad toxins that are stored within our bodies. Many of the viruses, fevers, flu, and colds symptoms we suffer from can be minimized just from sweating alone.
One of the main reasons stress and weight gain are so co-joined is due to cortisol, as your stress levels increase so do the cortisol levels within your body which in turn slow down your metabolism rate causing that “spare tire” effect around your stomach. So basically the more stressed you become the more cortisol that is released which slows down your metabolic rate, resulting in weight gain.
Another reason how stress contributes to weight gain is that when you are stressed you will feel a craving for more sugary, salty and fatty foods. These foods generally include processed foods and sweets, both of which are unhealthy and among the major causes of weight gain. One of the main things to do when you feel you are in a stressful environment is to avoid binging on foods that you will regret later. Instead of eating try walking, biking, talking with a supportive friend, or doing whatever you do to burn off steam. In the event that you find yourself just needing to indulge in that unhealthy food choice, try one of these stress fighting foods instead:
The healthy fats buried in the avocado’s flesh make it an ideal choice when you’re craving something rich and creamy. The reasons? Monounsaturated (healthy) fatty acids, and potassium–both of which help combat high blood pressure. Avocado fat is 66 percent monounsaturated, and gram-for-gram, the green fruit has about 35 percent more potassium than a banana. Whip up a fresh guacamole or slice a few slivers over toast and top with fresh ground pepper.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with stress-busting potential thanks to high levels of magnesium. Only about 30 percent of us meet our daily magnesium requirements, placing the rest of us at a higher risk for stress symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, tension, fatigue, insomnia, nervousness and high blood pressure. (Basically we’re frayed wires, and magnesium is the electrical tape that can pull us back together.) A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds gives you half your day’s magnesium requirements.
The mere scent of peppermint helps you focus and boosts performance, according to researchers. Another study discovered that peppermint tea makes drivers more alert and less anxious.
Half a medium papaya carries nearly 75 percent more vitamin C than an orange, and provides potent protection against stress. Researchers at the University of Alabama found 200 milligrams of vitamin C—about as much as you’ll find in one large papaya—twice a day nearly stopped the flow of stress hormones in rats. It should work for you, too.
Not only does omega-3 fat protect against heart disease and cognitive decline, but according to a study from Diabetes & Metabolism, the wonder fat is also responsible for maintaining healthy levels of cortisol. And what’s the world’s best source of omega-3s? Salmon. But there’s another trick in salmon’s arsenal—a sleep-promoting amino acid called tryptophan. One salmon filet has as much tryptophan as you need in an entire day, and if there’s one remedy for stress, it’s a good night of blissful Zs.
The almond’s first stress-buster is the aforementioned monounsaturated fats, but at risk of belaboring that point, let’s look at another almond-centered, mind-calming nutrient: vitamin E. In one study, Belgium researchers treated pigs with a variety of nutrients just before sticking them in a transportation simulator (basically a vibrating crate). After 2 hours of simulation, only those pigs treated with tryptophan and vitamin E had non-elevated levels of stress hormones. Almonds, thankfully, are loaded with vitamin E. To reach your day’s requirement from almonds alone, you need to eat about 40 to 50 nuts. Or you can mix them with other vitamin-E rich foods to save calories and add more dietary variety.
A biochemical effect of stress is a depleted stock of serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel cool, calm, and in control. One reliable strategy for boosting serotonin back to healthy levels is to increase your intake of carbohydrates. That said, scarfing down Ding Dongs and doughnuts isn’t a sustainable solution. Rather, to induce a steady flow of serotonin, aim to eat fiber-rich, whole-grain carbohydrates. The slower rate of digestion will keep seratonin production steady and prevent the blood sugar rollar-coaster that leads to mood swings and mindless eating.
Stress also affects the lack of sleep we get, which in turn adds to our weight gain. Lack of sleep appears to affect hormone levels. Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells which signals the brain to stop eating. Ghrelin, a hormone made in the stomach, signals the body to continue eating. Studies have shown that in individuals who are sleep deprived (i.e. sleeping less than 8 hours per night), leptin levels are lower and ghrelin levels are higher. This combination is therefore likely to increase appetite.
As we can see, excessive stress can lead to weight gain, so managing stress efficiently is necessary for weight loss. Here are some simple tips:
1. Start exercising: Studies have shown that exercise reduces stress and lowers the level of cortisol in the body. A study at the University of Missouri Columbia has revealed that high intensity exercises such as running is more effective in lowering anxiety and stress than low intensity workouts.
2. Learn to relax: A tense body and an overactive mind are the ideal condition for cortisol production. Meditation and deep breathing are effective ways to calm your mind and relieve anxiety.
3. Go to sleep: On average to help minimize stress, try to get on average 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.