Can Stress Act as a Barrier to Weight Loss?
Some form of stress is inevitable for most. In a day and age when everyone’s living a fast-paced lifestyle, it’s hard to not feel stressed. Deadlines, mortgage payments, energy bills, there’s a whole bunch of things stressing our lives, and this is just the outside. If you reflect on the personal aspects, family issues, marriage trouble, and various other factors, you can see why.
If you experience any of these problems, you may notice how they correlate with one main thing – weight gain. And if it’s not weight gain, it’s certainly a weight loss plateau. In this blog, I’ll break down the basics of stress, how it affects the body, and, most importantly, how it influences your ability to lose weight. If you would prefer to work directly with an online weight loss coach, then feel free to message reach out for a free consultation.
Stress – Good Or Bad?
When you go about your day, demands and expectations from family, work, and other domains of life can induce a minimal amount of tension. This can prove beneficial and help with functioning. But it’s important to recognise when this tension no longer forms only a small part of your life. Instead, it becomes chronic and long-lasting. Such stress can have devastating effects on your physical and emotional health.
Besides resulting in depressive feelings, anxiety, and sleep deprivation, it has a major impact on hormone levels, which are the root cause of weight changes.
The Hormone Side of Stress
To understand the physiology of stress and how it relates to hunger, I’ll go over two important hormones: cortisol and ghrelin. Research shows that stress leads to higher levels of ghrelin, the hunger-inducing hormone. When the body is under stress, it releases adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone. Stress also triggers the release of cortisol, which causes the body to stay on high alert.
As the primary hunger hormone, ghrelin causes you to feel hungry even when you don’t need to eat. Another habit that can trigger the release of ghrelin is alcohol consumption, another coping mechanism for pressure.
Stress and Emotional Eating
Chronic stress has an impact on the brain’s reward system, especially with regard to parts like the hippocampus and amygdala, which leads to food cravings. When stress triggers an increase in ghrelin levels, you feel hungrier and eat more.
This type of emotional eating can lead to the consumption of excess calories. Not to mention, most people crave foods high in carbs when stressed. These high-fat foods stimulate the release of pleasure chemicals like dopamine, reducing tension in the process. Higher dopamine levels resulting from emotional eating can help alleviate stress, but only in the short term.
Stress and Disturbed Sleep Cycles
Have you ever found it difficult to get sleep when you’re stressed out about an exam, presentation, or project deadline? It’s probably the effect of stress hormones that keep you up. Of course, the impact of stress on people’s sleeping patterns can vary, with some people sleeping more and others sleeping less.
Getting enough hours of restful sleep is a crucial part of a weight loss plan. Sleep is important to maintain to help the body maintain a healthy metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy you use up during different activities, including rest. In addition, research indicates that missing out on sleep while you’re on a diet can reduce the amount of weight you lose.
Stress and Inconsistent Eating Patterns
If it feels like you’re not losing weight despite going on a diet and exercising, your stress levels could have something to do with it. When you’re having a busy day, it’s likely that your body is experiencing high levels of stress. Moreover, these are the days when eating patterns become inconsistent.
Contrary to the common belief that skipping meals can help you lose weight, eating consistently and on time can help in weight loss and maintenance. That’s because you may experience cravings and end up overeating later.
How Stress Keeps Your Body from Burning Excess Fat
Increased secretion of the stress hormone cortisol also signals the body to store excess fat, especially in the abdominal area. This happens because your body thinks it’s in danger. While stressors in the 21st century involve giving a presentation at a board meeting, our ancestors were worried about famine or draughts. So when the body releases cortisol, it’s under the assumption that you’re in danger. As a result, it maintains fat levels to keep you warm and help you survive, something that’s coded in our DNA after centuries of evolution.
To maintain extra strength, your body needs additional energy and urges you to eat more, which raises the resting metabolic rate. Furthermore, the hormones triggered by chronic stress can lead to the loss of skeletal muscle, an important calorie burner for the body. It’s why the best weight loss plans require building lean muscle mass.
Dealing with Stress
While there are plenty of ways to distract your mind from stress, it’s also crucial to build insight. a weight loss coach can help you identify signals of stress and work to alleviate it. With my help, you’ll learn to understand what stresses you out and how you can control it to boost your weight loss efforts.