Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your weight loss goals, here are some reasons why:
When the body is in a state of stress the adrenal glands ramp up the production of a hormone called cortisol and the body will engage in ‘fight of flight’ mode. Nowadays we’re not likely to run into a sabre tooth tiger but out bodies response to stress, whether a threat, social, emotional or physical, the same way. If your brain thinks it’s in danger, it will conserve calories and fat to fight off the threat by slowing down your metabolism.
When your adrenal glands are taxed, it affects your thyroid function. Think of the thyroid as the body’s ‘engine’. It produces hormones that drive your energy and metabolism and adrenals as the gas. If your adrenals are running low due to chronic stress it will slow down the ‘engine’ so that it doesn’t burn out, resulting in a slower metabolism. Excess cortisol produced by the adrenal glands during the body’s stress response may also stunt the thyroid’s regular production.
The body temporarily pauses some regular bodily functions, also adding to a metabolic slowdown while at the same time releasing glucose into your blood stream for instant energy. Once the stress subsides, the adrenaline high wears off and your blood sugar drops your body is going to kick into high gear to replenish the energy supply quickly. Cue cravings for carbohydrates. What’s worse it that those carbohydrates are likely to be stored as belly fat which contributes to inflammation and other health risks.
An excess of cortisol can also lead to muscle breakdown. In an effort to conserve glucose the body will begin to break muscles down through gluconeogenesis in an effort to produce alternate sources of energy. The less muscle you have, the less calories you will burn at rest.
Stress can also trigger unhealthy lifestyle habits such as:
Emotional eating - Increased levels of cortisol can not only make you crave unhealthy food, but excess nervous energy can often cause you to eat more than you normally would.
Grabbing ‘quick’ foods – When we’re stressed, we’re not usually taking the time to plan out healthy meals and are inclined to eat the first thing we see, picking up to go meals or fast food drive throughs.
Skipping meals – When you’re juggling a lot of things at once eating can drop down your list of priorities. You might find yourself skipping breakfast or lunch because you’re running late or have to much on your to-do list to take a break.
Exercising less – With the demands of a busy schedule exercise, even just going for a walk can also drop down on your list of priorities.
Sleeping less – You may have trouble sleeping if you’re stressed. This can not only slow your metabolism and reduce your willpower, sleeping is when your body repairs itself and fat burning is at it’s optimum.
Now that you are armed with information on why stress contributes to weight gain and inhibits weight loss it’s time to think about ways to reduce stress. Most of us know the obvious ones, take a walk, exercise, mediate, yoga, sit quietly and read a book, soak in the tub, go for tea with a friend. There are lots.
How are you going to reduce stress and get back to a healthy lifestyle?