We all have stress in our lives, from workload to family issues, to breakups and health. Throw in a global pandemic and it’s likely that stress is hitting us all even harder than usual. The downside of stress is that for many it can affect the way we eat.
There are many reasons why being a little overwhelmed by life causes us to make poor decisions when it comes to food. Some people skip meals and lose their appetite, whilst others have the opposite problem and use food as a form of distraction, over-eating and gaining weight. Here is some useful information on stress, including tips on how to reduce stress and lose weight.
How is the body affected by stress?
Fight Or Flight
Research has shown that stress increases how the body pumps out adrenaline, cortisol and glucose – it is produced at higher level than usual, which results in your energy reserves being used up more quickly. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Afterwards, blood sugar levels will drop. Tis will cause you to feel extra hungry and desperate to replace the energy that’s been used up.
When starved of something, the body craves what it thinks it needs. And when you’re stressed out and have used up the energy levels that you had stored, sugar is a quick fix. However, as sugar does not provide long lasting energy for your body you will soon feel tired and hungry again. Sugar is often stored as abdominal fat when the body is under pressure, so it will actually go straight to your waistline. When you start to put on weight, you become stuck in a vicious cycle.
Studies have shown that those with higher stress levels have a lower metabolic rate and so are more likely to gain weight and less likely to burn calories efficiently. These studies also revealed that stressed people also had higher insulin levels, which is a hormone that helps with fat storage.
When you’re more emotional than usual, it’s easier to slip into bad habits that can quickly get out of control. Your hormones can make it hard to control your food cravings, and you will begin to reach for more calorific comfort foods rather than food that is nutritious. Quite often you become more lethargic. Fast-food becomes an easy preferred option over preparing a healthy meal too.
Many people also report trouble sleeping when stressed out and this can also contribute to weight gain. Whilst you’re asleep at night, the body burns calories that you have put on during the day just by getting on with its normal functions. In addition, feeling fatigued in the day can contribute to bad habits for eating and exercising, again adding to weight gain.
What Can I Do to Reduce Stress and Lose Weight?
The first step is recognising and being mindful about what changes happen when you’re feeling stressed. If you notice that you’re reaching for fast food and sweet treats, try to only fill your cupboard with nutritious and healthy food that you can prepare and calorie count throughout the day. Resist the temptation of having the cupboards piled high with junk food.
If you become lethargic quickly, try to have snacks that will keep you fuelled for longer. Instead of a chocolate bar that will give you a sugar rush and then leave you feeling even worse when you crash. Swap out with a handful of dried fruit and nuts or fruit and yoghurt to keep the calorie content down.
Try to cut out any external factors that are causing you stress in your life. Or learn how to control them through meditation or other means of relaxation in between. Talking to friends and family can really help to put stress into perspective and can quite often be a big relief just getting things off your chest.
Let us know what you do to keep your stress levels under control in the comments below.
If you’re still feeling anxious about going back to your old routine, here’s a couple of links that may be useful for you: