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The Relationship between Stress and Weight Gain

The Relationship between Stress and Weight Gain

Understanding the relationship and breaking the cycle

You’ve probably had the experience of emerging from a stressful time with a few extra pounds at some point in your life, maybe now. If so, you're not alone. It's happened to all of us. That's because there's a biological link between stress and weight gain. It's cortisol, and it's your body's way of trying to help you cope with stressful situations. The good news (yes, there's good news!) is that understanding the relationship between stress, cortisol, and weight gain can help you break the cycle, shake the stress weight and boost your health and happiness. Sound good to you? Read on!

 

The relationship between stress, cortisol, and weight gain

When you feel stress, your body tries to help by sending stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and gives you great bursts of energy. Cortisol presses pause on physiological processes--your metabolism, for instance--that could burn energy you need to survive the stressful situation at hand. That's great if you need to outrun a predator or ace your weekly workout. It's less great if a stressful job, relationship, political situation, or illness keeps you stressed out--and your metabolism creeping like a snail--for weeks.

You may start to notice that your pants feel a little tighter and your face looks a little rounder. You may also notice muscle tension, headaches, heartburn, insomnia, low sex drive, missed periods, and (You guessed it) weight gain. It's enough to stress a body out! But don't get discouraged, there's a solution and you already have everything you need to put it into action.

 

How to start breaking the stress-cortisol-weight gain cycle

You can't eliminate stress. It's a natural part of life. What you can change is your reaction to stress. A combination of short and long-term stress relief techniques can help you steer clear of cortisol and those extra pounds.

 

Short Term Stress Relief

Sometimes stress pops up out of the blue. Trying one of the following for even a few seconds can lessen or slow your body's reaction to stress--and make you feel better too!

  • Concentrate on your breathing. Breathe in the calm. Breathe out the stress.

  • Stroke a pet. Animals can be amazing healers.

  • Take a shower or bath. Soothing water and a moment of privacy are sometimes all you need.

  • Go outside. Find a patch of green and feel the earth beneath your feet.

  • Take a walk. Even a 5-minute walk can have you feeling like a new person.

  • Hug someone you love. They'll love it too!

 

Long Term Stress Relief

Making even one of these practices part of your life can lower your stress level over time and prepare you to remain calmer when unavoidable stress arises.

  • Exercise regularly. Call us! That's what we're here for!

  • Meditate. Your mind is a muscle. Stretch it and be amazed at how resilient it becomes.

  • Have fun! Explore an interest or try a new hobby. Take a class or join a group.

  • Practice the attitude of gratitude. Positive thinking can keep stress at bay. Gratitude journals are a great place to start.

  • Talk it out. Sharing with good friends, loving relatives and support groups, can be remarkably relaxing.