Stress is becoming part of our day-to-day life and has many faces. From high workloads, financial problems to relationship issues. Stress is so common that we even have terms like “being burned out” for it! The problem with long term stress is that it can make you sick as it takes a toll on your body. One of the side effects of stress is weight gain and its related illnesses. In this article I will explain how stress is related to weight gain and how to reduce stress to reverse it.
How stress is related to weight gain
During the early caveman days, the most common stress humans had was starvation due to weather changes or failed hunting and gathering. There were no work, relationship or time related stress factors in their lives as we “modern humans” have today.
Our body however still functions and reacts the same way to stress as it did thousands of years ago! No matter the reason!
Every time we are stressed our body releases a hormone called cortisol. The purpose of cortisol is to conserve our energy levels so we can survive during famine. Cortisol increases our blood sugar levels, keeps insulin levels high and regulates our metabolism. The goal is to keep our brain and the most important organs to function for as long as possible “until we find food”. When we conserve energy we do not burn the energy we eat and we gain weight! Furthermore, the continuous production of insulin leads to the insulin related disease called diabetes.
The difference between now and then: We don’t stress because of famine. We have stress due to other factors and we have plenty of food to eat which does not get burned!
Another reason we gain weight when we are stressed is stress- related overeating! We tend to grab sugary snacks when we are stressed. Partly because it comforts us and also because our body seeks out more energy to “conserve”.
Learn more about weight gain and obesity here!
Reducing stress with our body’s anti stress system
In order to reduce stress, we need to activate our anti-stress system. Our body has developed a system to reduce stress after the “famine” is over. This system is called the parasympathetic nervous system. It aids to slow down our heart rate, decreases cortisol production and allows for metabolism to function normal again! You will start burning energy and eventually start losing weight again as you body is not keeping the fat and carbs as a “back up” anymore.
4 ways to reduce stress so you can start burning more calories
1.Perform little breathing exercises when stressed
When you are in a stressful situation take conscious deep breaths to slow down your heart rate and to calm you down! Concentrate on your breathing when you inhale. Hold your breath for a few seconds and then exhale. Repeat this a few times. It truly does wonders!
2. Take Yoga classes for body and mental stress release
Yoga’s popularity is steadily increasing and rightly so! Yoga has been practiced for hundreds of years and is an excellent tool to reduce stress. Not only that, it also strengthens and stretches your muscles and teaches you to concentrate on your breathing whilst you exercise. Its great for your body, mind and soul!
3. General exercise reduces stress and aids weight loss
Exercising reduces stress as it releases the feel-good hormone called endorphin. Exercise also takes your mind off all your “worries” for a period of time which also aids to reduce stress.
You don’t need to go crazy on the exercise either! It’s all about the movement of your body from long brisk walks to high intensity exercises. Important is that you choose a form of exercise that you enjoy doing! If thinking about exercise stresses you out its counterproductive, don’t you think! Read more on exercise and stress release here.
4. Switch off all your devices to reduce stress
Our TV, PC, smart phones and tablets increase our stress levels! The constant attention all these devices seek from you can be very stressful. From 100’s of emails that are waiting for your response to the constant notifications that pop up on your phone or your watch. Your thoughts are drawn continuously to your devices and this can stress you out. Try to stop using any device for at least an hour each day. You will see what wonders it can do for you and your mind to just tell the world to stop for a while…
Take home message
Stress is a constant companion on our modern live. Many of us are not even aware of it until we get terrible headaches, back pain or severely sick. To top it all off we also gain weight from it!
Try to bring some balance back to your live and stop for a moment, take a deep breath and be aware of your present. The present is the most precious commodity we have so we should embrace and enjoy it. The results of reducing stress are more than just losing weight!