Every single one of us will experience stress at some point in our lives, and that is a good thing to a certain extent. We need a small amount of stress so that we get things done on time and work efficiently, or if we need to run away from a scary situation. The problem comes when your stress becomes chronic and you don’t know any other feeling but stress, and in this day and age it is the case for a lot of people. But did you know that excessive stress can be a cause of weight gain?
How stress causes weight gain
It’s all to do with your hormones, and the main hormone involved with stress is cortisol. This is known as ‘fight or flight’, whenever you are in a stressful situation your body releases cortisol to help you make quicker decisions and be prepared. However, when you become stressed there is a tendency to overeat because your body thinks that you’ve used calories to deal with the stress, when you haven’t burnt any extra calories if you’re just sat at your desk stressed at work.
Recent studies have found that people that are stressed more often typically have more visceral fat (tummy fat) which can be dangerous and lead to more chances of heart disease, or diabetes. A study in the Journal of Obesity found that women who took part in mindfulness sessions and mindful eating were less likely to put on weight around the stomach than those that didn’t.
What can you do about it?
If you know that you bear a lot of stress and food is the response to this you need to train your mind to notice the way you are feeling, but not react to it with food. E.g if you’re angry, don’t react to this by eating a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.
This has been found to be one of the most effective ways of dealing with stress. If you are an absolute beginner, try downloading apps such as Headspace or Stop Breathe & Think. These are both free apps that help you to focus on the moment and keep stress at bay. There are also many places you can take a mindfulness courses, that’s where Google comes in.
Ever walked into the gym feeling really stressed after a day at work but came out feeling 100% better? That’s what exercise does to you. Exercise is a great form of stress relief, whether it’s hitting the punchbag at a Boxercise class or doing yoga. When you exercise it releases endorphins, hormones that make you feel happy.
Being outdoors in the fresh air is free, easy and can really help soothe any feelings of stress. Recent research has found that people who live in the countryside are generally happier, and that’s probably because there is less noise, less people and you are less likely to be sat doing a city centre office job 40 hours a week. Obviously it’s not possible to just pick up your family and move to the country, but taking a stroll on your days off can definitely help. Even if it’s a 10 minute walk in the mornings before you go to work. Not only will this take your mind off stress, but it will distract you from eating.