We’ve all been there: it’s a stressful day at work, and all you can do about the emotional storm building up inside you is reach for snacks and stuff them down your throat. According to science, the urge to sate stress on calorie-rich foods is written in our genes, but although appetite spikes in times of threat are only natural, they can still lead to rapid weight gain. But why exactly do we reach for fatty and sugary foods when stress hits the fan and how can we fight it?
Fight or Flight: A Hormone-Induced Munch
Exposure to perceived threat triggers a chain reaction in the body which involves an increased release of stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine) that enhance alertness, energy, and focus, allowing us to fight the danger or flee from it. The adrenaline level returns to normal pretty quickly, but cortisol lingers around, signaling to the body that it’s time to find food and replenish energy. Hence the post-stress hunger: your brain is manipulated by the hormonal hike to believe it needs fuel to recover from the fight or flight.
In the world we live in, stressful situations seldom involve running or combat, which is why all the extra calories you chomped on after a heated debate in the office will be stored as fat. High fat content in our bodies involves a greater risk of high LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, anxiety and a host of other health issues.
Fat Below Deck: More Than Meets The Eye
Stress-induced weight gain doesn’t boil down to visible fat: if you gain a few pounds fast, only a fraction of it will show at skin level, while the rest of the fat will sneak into your abdomen and distribute itself around pancreas, liver and intestines as visceral fat. Now, hidden fat stock is a more pressing concern than aesthetics, as it takes more time to burn than visible fat and ups the risk of diabetes type 2, high blood pressure and cholesterol, cardiovascular problems, heart disease, stroke and even cancer. For this reason, preventing stress-caused weight gain is far more efficient than fixing the damage once it begins to show in your figure and blood screenings.
[ctt template=”4″ link=”KQe4X” via=”yes” ]Preventing stress-caused weight gain is far more efficient than fixing the damage once it begins. @TheHolisticates[/ctt]
Don’t Lose It – But Don’t Gain Weight Either
Habits are hard to shake, especially if backed by genetics, but this doesn’t mean you can’t keep tabs on your munching sprees when stress hits the roof. Instead of reaching for a glazed donut or croissant, try one of the following techniques and keep your weight and long-term wellbeing in check.
Sweat Stress Out: Instead of chewing on frustration, try sweating it out. [ctt template=”4″ link=”8n9ia” via=”yes” ]Yoga, tai-chi, running, aerobics, biking, and Taekwondo are a calorie-free vent for negative emotions. @TheHolisticates[/ctt]To burn existing fat, tone your muscles, and boost cardiovascular function, try including 3-4 workout sessions in your weekly agenda and use a body tracker app to monitor the effects of training on your physique.
Take A Deep Breath: Deep breathing promotes stress relief and improved exchange of oxygen and nutrients in the cells, which is essential for long-term well-being. Conscious breathing is also a component of yoga and meditation, and studies show that regular meditative practices can help safeguard your figure against stress-related weight gain.
Take The Load Off: Going over stressful situations in your head over and over again burns no fat:-it just fries your brain and prompts you to take second helpings of comfort food. [ctt template=”4″ link=”0v8ku” via=”yes” ]Instead of holding onto frustration, reach out to your family, friends, or a therapist and talk the load off your heart. @TheHolisticates[/ctt]
Do Charity Work: Use your time constructively and help your community by an act of charity. This will both flush anxiety from your mind and fill your heart with pride and joy. Charity work will take your mind off stress and inspire good mood, so you’ll be getting a lot by giving a little to those in need.
Take A Road Trip: Traveling is a great way to get active, break a dull daily routine and get stress out of your system. Even a day-long break from the stressful environment will help set your mood back on the positive track – and if traveling is not exactly your piece of cake, you can take up a relaxing hobby instead to keep stress out of sight.
Weight is easier to gain than lose, so don’t let stress cheat you out of a slender body and peak health. Break the emotional eating cycle and take active steps to eliminate stressors from your everyday life or at least alleviate their impact on your eating habits. [ctt template=”4″ link=”o49IS” via=”yes” ]You only get one body per lifetime, so make sure to keep it in good shape, for your future self’s sake. @TheHolisticates[/ctt]
Nicole is a lifestyle blogger who is passionate about travel and healthy living. She always seeks new adventures and enjoys sharing her experiences with others. In her free time she likes to prepare healthy and delicious food for her friends. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.