Stress can be one of the causes of weight gain. We all have a certain amount of stress in our lives, and that can be a good thing. The stress of a deadline at work, or for some, the stress of cleaning up after Christmas, and getting the house back in order for the start of a new year. That type of stress may be a good thing because it can motivate you to get the task at hand finished. Then the stress is gone, and our bodies return to a normal stress-free zone.
But what is stress, and how do we deal with it?
Let’s get started.
But What If The Stress Stays?
Stress can, however, become a problem if it stays in our lives.
When our bodies first feel stress, our appetite is actually diminished. Our bodies put us in the classic “fight or flight” mode by releasing a chemical called epinephrine, or adrenaline. This is what gives us the motivation to get out of the stress causing situation. We finish the assigned work or clean the house. Perfect.
But if the stressful situation lingers, then our bodies release a different chemical called cortisol. Cortisol will trigger the hunger response in the body, whether we are hungry or not.
Think about a time in your life when you had an important task to complete. You knew you needed to get it done, and time was slipping away. But instead of completing the task at hand, you had something to eat. While you were eating, you were probably thinking. “I’m not even hungry, and I have work to do!”
That was your bodies way of dealing with the self-imposed stress to get the job done. Cortisol triggered that hunger response and you went with that feeling instead of getting the work done.
We’ve all done it. What we need to do is consciously understand what is happening in our bodies and suppress that fake hunger feeling and just keep working. When the job is done, the stress will be gone and we will no longer feel “fake” hungry based on cortosol.
What We Eat Matters – Comfort Foods
Ah yes. The good old “comfort foods.” Foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar. They are the ones that make us feel better when we eat them. The release of cortisol in combination with high insulin levels seem to change our eating habits. We reach for those easy to prepare and eat foods that are full of sugar.
Remember that a carbohydrate molecule and a sugar molecule are both dealt with in your body the same way. The sugar is used for energy, the carbs are changed to glucose (sugar) and used for energy, and whatever you don’t use is stored as fat in your body.
Stress eating those comfort foods can lead to extra fat storage and hinder your weight loss plans. So we need to remember to eat the proper foods all the time, and we need to be consciously reminding ourselves that the hunger we may be feeling right now could be cortisol (stress) related.
We need to find ways to eliminate the stress from our lives without eating.
If we give in and eat the unhealthy foods, we may, in fact, ADD to the stress we are feeling. When we are finished eating, we may feel guilty about our food choices, therefore adding stress instead of removing it.
Recognition of what our body is feeling is the first step. As we come to realize that we are not actually hungry, but feeling stress, there are a few ways to eliminate the stress.
The first way is to just get it done! Finish the task. Do the work. Clean the house. Wash the dog. Whatever is causing you stress, get it done!
The next suggestion is to just take a minute, sit down, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and make a list. Now I know that this may seem counter-intuitive, to stop working to relieve the stress of not getting the work done, but hear me out.
Make a plan. Write a list of the things you need to get done that are causing you stress, prioritize them according to stress level (highest causing stress items first) and then start doing the tasks. One at a time. Check them off as you finish them. You will be amazed at how this releases the stress.
Another suggestion is social contact. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggestion that you drop everything and hop on your device for a few hours of social media updates! That won’t help with the stress or the work that needs to get done.
What I am suggesting is setting aside some time each week to get together with friends and have some fun. Put away your phones and talk about life and stress and how blessed you are. This will help eliminate the stress you are feeling.
The final suggestion I have for you to assist in the relief of stress is exercise. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy, and just do it. Participate in a basketball or volleyball league. Run or jug. Whatever exercise you enjoy, set time aside each day to partake in it.
My exercise of choice is weight lifting. For 30 – 40 minutes each morning, I get to focus on nothing else but lifting more weight than I did last week. I follow a split routine and I only compete against myself. Lifting something heavy is a great stress reliever. You get to focus on the here and now and just work hard.
The added benefit is that when lifting weights is combined with the ketogenic lifestyle, your body transformation will be incredible. You can have rapid weight loss and you can gain muscle and you will look and feel great.
But what if your stress is more than just a job or task at hand that needs to get done?
I am not naive. Studies have shown that about a quarter of people asked would rate their stress level at or above 8 out of 10, with 10 being the most stressed they could be. People are feeling stressed, and when they are stressed, they eat.
How can we deal with this chronic, ever-present stress?
Well, the solution to that lies with the root cause of the stress. You need to find out what is causing the stress in your life and take steps to lower or eliminate the stress. I’m not telling you to do anything drastic. Start with the simple things.
Like I mentioned before, make a list of what is causing the stress. Some of those things will be out of your control. Those are the things you just need to let go.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.
Then start to change the things that are in your control. One at a time. Start making that relationship better. Start eating healthier foods. Start exercising on a regular basis. Change your attitude about your job. Or change your job.
It is up to you to eliminate the stress in your life. Just take the necessary steps to do it.
Stress and Eating – My Final Thoughts
The most important point to take from this post is that you are the author of your own outcome when it comes to stress and eating.
Recognize that you are stressed, and not hungry.
Take steps to eliminate the stress without giving in to the comfort food urge caused by the fake hunger chemical cortisol.
Find an activity to participate in regularly (even daily) to help alleviate the stress.
Make the changes necessary in your life to deal with the chronic stress, one day at a time.
Thanks for listening.
Have a great day!