Relationship between stress and weight gain

Stress is singled out in the current obesity epidemic. Studies conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have shown that adults suffering from chronic stress are more prone to the risk of weight gain. Today, scientists have been able to explain that high levels of stress can lead to behavioral symptoms that promote this weight gain.

Stress and weight gain

Table of Contents

Stress – What is it?

From an etymological point of view, the English term stress is correlated to the Latin word strictus metaphorically suggesting a compression, an anguish (and therefore a possible anguish). Truly, Stress can be defined as a subjective experience that occurs when a person is subjected to environmental pressures that force him to change.

The Stress and weight gain: The different types of stress

You should know that there are two types of stress:

  • Eustress or good stress is that which is essential to life, which manifests itself in the form of constructive and interesting environmental stimuli. For  example, might be a job promotion that assigns greater responsibility, but also greater satisfaction.
  • Secondly, Distress or bad stress that causes great emotional and physical imbalances that are difficult to resolve.

 

A “Stressor” cause an alteration in the internal homeostasis of the organism. Thus, this alteration activates the “stress system” causing adaptive responses of physiological (peripheral responses) and behavioral (central responses) type.

Stress and weight gain: Sources of stress and anxiety can be physical in nature

The origin of stress is diverse.

  • Hunger
  • sleep deprivation
  • Incorrect temperature
  • Exposure to strong vibrations
  • Excessive noises
  • Extended working hours (especially if spread over night time slots)
  • traumatic events
  • Difficulties and conflicts

 

How can you gain/lose weight in times of stress?

Stress and weight gain

Life events, both positive and negative, therefore require substantial adaptations and behavioral adjustments that can be very demanding and stressful. The body’s stress response is a highly adaptive stereotyped response that allows the body to prepare for, react to, and cope with physical and emotional stress.

Stress and weight gain: How is losing weight related to stress?

When we are stressed, the endocrine adrenal glands are stimulated to produce corticosteroids like cortisol and catecholamines like adrenaline. Also, These biochemicals increase the production of sugar in the blood. Moreover, This causes the splitting of lean mass and fat mass. So originally, stress in itself leads to weight loss.

Stress and weight gain: When does stress make you fat?

For the opposite situation to be valid, namely that stress leads to weight gain, this situation must be prolonged over the long term. This is called chronic stress. Additionally, this phenomenon then leads to weight gain, because it will (in most cases) be associated with a poor diet. So, it is excessive meals with a high glycemic load that are precisely made to induce a feeling of well-being and consolation that leads to eating more.

Physiology and food: why do I eat when I'm stressed?

As mentioned above, body changes caused by prolonged daily stress lead to weight gain.

The role of the adrenal glands and cortisol

Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and participates in the metabolism of fats and sugars. In addition, its functions are associated with the management of nervousness.

Ghrelin levels are known to change when the body is stressed, which affects behavior, mood and metabolism. In other words, stress generates more ghrelin, which increases appetite. .

Some? Recent studies claim that this appetite hormone also plays a role in stress, anxiety and depression. Also, Ghrelin may relieve the psychological burden produced by constant stress. Moreover, the counterpart is unfortunately that it would promote obesity.

Similarly, other studies suggest that when we decide to eat less, production of the appetite hormone can be increased even after we finish eating. This can be more frustrating and likely to cause additional stress rather than satiation. Additionally, ghrelin can also stimulate cortisol production.

Stress and weight gain: The hormone capable of disrupting appetite due to stress

Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite and participates in the metabolism of fats and sugars. In addition, its functions are associated with the management of nervousness.

 

Ghrelin levels are known to change when the body is stressed, which affects behavior, mood and metabolism. In other words, stress generates more ghrelin, which increases appetite. .

 

Some? Recent studies claim that this appetite hormone also plays a role in stress, anxiety and depression. Ghrelin may relieve the psychological burden produced by constant stress. The counterpart is unfortunately that it would promote obesity.

 

Other studies suggest that when we decide to eat less, production of the appetite hormone can be increased even after we finish eating. This can be more frustrating and likely to cause additional stress rather than satiation. Additionally, ghrelin can also stimulate cortisol production.

Stress and weight gain: Stress affects feelings of hunger and satiety

Firstly, Leptin induces satiety to dull the urge to eat . Sometimes when the body does not feel full after eating, it can be a consequence of this hormone not reaching normal levels or that we stop eating. to eat.

An investigation published in Biological Psychology indicates that leptin is also affected by stress, which would reduce satiety while eating. While promoting the release of this hormone from adipose tissue, cortisol contributes to leptin resistance by decreasing the hypothalamus’ sensitivity to the hormone, thereby reducing satiation. Also, Leptin also inhibits the area of ​​the brain involved in cognitive reward processes. Thus, a vicious circle is therefore formed which leads to a constant increase in the consumption of “comfortable” foods to maintain the pleasure/reward effect.

How to de-stress?

Stress and weight gain

It’s not just stressful situations that trigger the effects of cortisol. It’s also possible to suffer from the same symptoms when doing extreme physical activity, with sharp drops in sugar levels or due to rest. insufficient.?For this reason, the strictest weight loss diets do not always achieve the desired results, thus causing additional anxiety in the patient. Here are tips to apply daily to reduce stress and lose weight, or not gain at all. 

Stress and weight gain: Get organized and set priorities

To avoid overwhelming yourself with your daily obligations and tasks, the first thing to do is to set priorities. Avoid the pressures of unnecessary or irrelevant activities. You can also organize your schedule to lighten up your day.

Adopt a healthy diet

Firstly, if you want to control your stress levels, a good diet that promotes the release of serotonin can help. On the other hand, a diet high in fat or in which junk food is the protagonist can add more stress to your days.

Exercise regularly

In the midst of so many obligations, the first thing we usually do is reduce physical activity. de-stress. Some activities are more effective than others.

Avoid tobacco and other drugs

Although it’s one of the most used strategies when dealing with anxiety and multiple stresses, smoking has been shown not to relieve stress. Therefore, it is better not to resort to these toxic substances which tend to aggravate the symptoms.

Externalize your emotions

Emotional load can be one of the main causes of stress. Therefore, an in-depth conversation with friends or family can prove beneficial. If necessary, a psychotherapy session can always be helpful in releasing the emotions and feelings that are causing it.

Learn to say NO?

Denial of commitment is something that should be viewed favorably as it is part of organizing and managing responsibilities. Likewise, you can delegate or deny certain obligations to lighten your burden and lower your stress level.

Do relaxing activities

Stress and weight gain

Finally, incorporate relaxation programs into your daily life. If you enjoy ?yoga?or find solace in reading a good book, listening to music, or simply gazing up at the sky, don’t deprive yourself. These activities are likely to relieve tension and stress.

Stress and weight gain: Food solutions that prevent psychological weight gain

To regulate the secretion of hormones that promote weight gain, try incorporating the following compounds into your diet

Magnesium

Brown rice, chickpeas, beans, peas, snails or certain nuts such as hazelnuts, pistachios or walnuts are foods rich in magnesium . They are essential elements of your diet if you are looking to avoid the presence of cortisol. The benefits of these foods will be multiplied if you consume them after having practiced a certain type of exercise. swimming, skating, etc.

Omega 3

This fatty acid is also effective against the stress hormone. Oily fish , especially sardines, anchovies and salmon, shellfish, lettuce, spinach, strawberries and vegetable products such as oil are a great source of omega 3. The same goes for soy or canola seeds, chia seeds, flax, and walnuts ?

Tryptophan?

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that stimulates the production of serotonin, also known as the feel-good hormone. Truly, it is found in eggs, milk, dark chocolate, brewer’s yeast, nuts , turkey and chicken and oily fish. Legumes, seeds or fruits and vegetables such as pineapple, bananas, avocado, spinach, broccoli and beets also contain it.?

Other compounds

In order not to suffer from permanent stress and subsequent overweight, it is essential to follow a healthy and balanced diet based on high quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and essential fatty acids.

 

At the same time, it’s important that you avoid certain ingredients and eating habits that only worsen your health alcohol. Remember that the goal is to relax, not to stimulate your body further. Completing the recommended hours of sleep is also important to avoid high levels of stress.

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Shivani Sikri Dietician

Shivani Sikri is an internationally renowned award-winning dietician, nutritionist, columnist, blogger, and nutrigenomics counsellor.

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