Is Stress Making Me Fat?


Stress Management

Stress Management (Photo credit: Livin’ Spoonful)

Have you felt overwhelmed by your tasks at work or at home or both?  Feeling sluggish or lacking a good energy vibe that used to be there?  Have you found yourself getting quick with people and acting a bit intolerant of anything you deem as miscellaneous information?

If you answered yes to a few if not all of these statements you may be stressed out.  Surprise, surprise how can we not be stressed out with our jobs on the line, the prices of everyday groceries going up, the demand our employers are expecting from us weighing on our shoulders, and North Korea threatening to dampen our day with a nuclear test. Actually 1 in 5 Americans felt stressed in 2012 according to the American Psychological Association.  In fact 75 percent of Health care costs are associated with extreme stress which lead to chronic illnesses.  But is all stress bad?  Well, no actually. Mild stress is good it forces us to sharpen our minds and act quickly further helping fine tune those decision making skills.  We’d call this type of stress, tolerable stress.  However when it happens more frequently and the stress lasts longer periods of time that’s when serious implications can start to occur and you push past that tolerable level.

How about stress and weight gain, are they related?  Possibly.  There is a hormone your adrenal gland releases in times of stress called Cortisol.  The more stressed your adrenal gland is the more cortisol that is produced.  This release relates to physical stress (exercise/exertion), mental and emotional stress as well.  It is also true that those who are in a constant state of stress maintain above normal levels of cortisol too.  Having high cortisol levels for an extensive period of time can cause blood sugar imbalance, elevated blood pressure, lowered immune systems, and yes extra fat particularly around the middle.  But don’t get too ready to point the finger at cortisol as the reason for weight gain, turns out that for some cortisol can even cause weight loss! (Fitday) This is possible in part to the extra energy burst we feel when in that stressed fight or flight stage.

Ultimately, it’s all about how you choose to respond to the stress that leads to weight gain or no weight gain.  Some people turn to emotional eating when stressed and the cravings of comfort foods or just a sense of hunger kicks in.  This is where overindulgence can occur and if this extends for a period of time weight gain will ensue. (Mayo Clinic). Others go the opposite route and are so stressed food becomes the last thing on their minds. Neither of these being the ideal responses but everyone deals with situations differently.  For instance, I don’t over eat when stressed nor under eat I get angry.  my stress turns to anger and I start getting irritable and crabby and short with everyone around me.  To cool down now takes a great amount of effort and willpower just to turn away from that overwhelming emotion.  It may sound silly but what works for me I learned in Adam Sandler‘s Anger Management movie (one of my favorites, shocking?).  It’s the scene where Adam and Jack Nicholson are driving and Adam gets an extreme case of road rage.  Jack Nicholson stops their car in the middle of the road, turns it off and forces Adam to sing “I feel pretty“.  It takes Adam a bit to change his mindset but once he does and starts singing he calms himself down and removes those stress barriers.

So the next time you are stressed just stop what you’re doing and think about why you feel the way you feel. See if you can pinpoint the stress in your life and consciously make an effort to see how it makes you feel. That will give you a good indicator as to how you handle stress. From there start making changes. Can’t get rid of the stressors? Try and change the way your treating the stress then for the better.

How do you deal with stress in your life? Knowing that what changes do you plan on making to deal with it better?

Written by  Kimberly Evans

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