Everybody wants to look fit and healthy. So, it isn’t the case for those who have piled on weight aren’t interested in shedding it. Believe me, majority of them would have shown concern about the burgeoning belly and fattened up thighs. And, more than enough have ventured to the gym to tackle weight gain.
However, it isn’t that easy to accomplish. For starters, you have to exhibit immense dedication and discipline. You have to workout honestly day in, day out. Also, you have to watch what you are eating and have to consistently abstain from unhealthy junk. And, if you manage to be successful in both of these two aspects, then, well you have to also battle several psychological factors. Fatigue, lack of motivation and constant sugar cravings can prove to be huge obstacles in your pursuit to be healthy and fit.
Then, there is stress, the biggest by product of the hustling and bustling modern lifestyle. The modern life demands place so much burden on the individual and it is often difficult to cope with everything that is happening around you. Along with other health problems, the stress is also responsible for the weight gain. It can also hamper your efforts to shed the extra kilos. Here are 7 different ways in which stress is making you fat.
Stress promotes fat accumulation around the waist
As we all know, the stress activates the fight or flight mode. So, it tells your body that it will need more fuel for either of two. In response, the glycogen stored in muscles and the liver is released into the bloodstream to improve the availability of fuel. However, the bigger problem is that in reality neither you are going to fight or flight. So, the body can’t balance out excess energy with appropriate amount of physical exertion. And, as the result, after a specific time period, the excess calories are converted into fat. As the cells in the abdomen have the highest concentration of receptors for the stress hormone cortisol than any other body part, so most of this excess fat is stored around your tummy.
This is why it is highly advisable that you get a decent exercise when under stress. It provides a safety release for the excess energy present due to the fight and flight mode. Also, it has been found that exercise can help in managing stress.
Stress is an obstacle to fat burning
The above described the high sugar levels triggered by stress which leads to the release of the hormone insulin. This hormone is responsible for moving sugar from the bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy. The high concentration of insulin ushers your body into fat storing mode and prevents the use of stored fat as fuel. So, if you are going to get low physical exercise that doesn’t make extra-ordinary energy demands, you will keep on piling weight for years.
You can manage the insulin levels by refraining from eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates. And, of course, reducing the stress can be highly beneficial. The consistent high insulin levels can lead to saturated insulin receptor sites. When this happens, the receptors can no longer pick up the insulin hormone. This condition is known as ‘insulin resistance’ or ‘metabolic syndrome,’ and is associated with ‘apple-shaped obesity.’
The best way to tackle the effect of the stress hormones is to have a healthy breakfast. If you aren’t fueling up in the morning, the stress hormones will take over and will start conserving the glycogen from the muscles as there is no new supply of nutrients. You are starting the day in an emergency state, which is never a good thing. The protein rich breakfast, in particular, can keep you full for longer period of time. Eggs are one of the best options as morning food as they improve glucose / insulin response and even food choices for the rest of the day.
Stress increases production of fat attracting hormone oestrogen
The stress hormone cortisol is not only responsible for promoting apple shaped figure, but also for the production of fat attracting hormone oestrogen. The cortisol is made from progesterone, the other key female sex hormone, which balances out oestrogen. And, the vice versa is true as well. So, the higher the presence of progesterone, the higher will be the secretion of oestrogen. Now, oestrogen is responsible for creating the female shape. And, high concentration of oestrogen can lead to fat accumulation on the body, especially in those with a natural apple shape. Plus, when the presence of oestrogen is more than progesterone across a whole menstrual cycle, some women might experience stress-related menstrual symptoms including heavier periods, a shorter cycle and mood-related PMS.
However, you can’t afford low levels of oestrogen, especially around the menopause, if this happens, your bones and mood can suffer. So, you need to keep your stress under control, to ensure the hormones remain in balance.
Stress negatively affects thyroid function
The state of constant alert that is caused by stress signals the need to save energy for potential action. In such state, the adrenal glands order the thyroid gland to go-slow by down-regulating its output. The thyroid gland regulates your metabolism (the rate at which your body cell burns calories). So, when the thyroid gland slows down, your metabolism rate also drops, making it even harder to lose weight.
In such instances, the thyroid function hasn’t dropped enough to be found in the thyroid test. The functioning is slow enough to affect metabolic rate, but doesn’t fall in the category of hypothyroidism.
Stress triggers sugar cravings
It isn’t as if everything is trying to conserve energy during the fight or flight mode. In this mode, the body ramps up the production of the hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters needed to maintain that heightened state. If you aren’t getting necessary rest and relaxation time, you would be very exhausted. Also, the prolonged high production of cortisol hormones can lead to crashes that will require sugar or any other stimulant to create more energy.
Another reason behind our cravings for sugar in tough situations is that as our first food was milk, we have been conditioned from our childhood to see sugar as a source of ‘comfort or reward.’ So, when we are stressed, we crave for sugar as it stimulates those rewarding and comforting feelings. You have to mentally accept that it is only a short term fix that will rob you of sustained energy and a stable mood. And, not to forget the weight gain, which can lead to several health problems. So, you have to change your perception and whenever you experience those dreaded sugar cravings, you will have to resist it.
The vicious cycle of highs and lows of sugar and refined carbohydrate food will give your body and brain inconsistent supply of glucose energy supplies. The sudden highs would be followed by crashes, which will push you to consume more sugar. This terrible sugar addiction cycle can cause cravings, anxiety, insomnia and weight gain. It can leave you feeling devoid of energy, irritable, angry and unable to cope with anything.
Plus, you can opt to eat fruits to tackle the sweet tooth. In this way, your sugar craving will be sated and you will be eating healthy food. The high fiber content of the fruits can be helpful in weight loss as well. However, do steer clear of processed fruit juices.
Another healthy and effective way to satisfy your sugar cravings is to go for a dark chocolate bar. It should have more than 60 percent cocoa content. And, the cocoa with its antioxidant ability can assist in weight loss.
Stress makes you crave for junk food
According to studies, the pleasure from eating junk food is linked to the same emotional reward centers in the brain as those linked to drug addiction. When you eat junk food, these reward centers have a positive impact on the stressed brain. It signals the release of pain-relieving opioids, calming cannabinoids and serotonin into the brain.
But as you all know, the high doesn’t last for a long time and is often accompanied by mood drop. And, you will be hungrier, crankier and craving more of the same. Just like in case with narcotic drugs, this craving cycle is habit forming. The more you do it, the more you will want it.
Along with making you addicted to the junk food, this stress craving cycle can add weight to your body that can be very difficult to shift. And, you will be under pressure to lose weight, which will lead to stress. And, stress will lead to even more junk and sugary food craving.
Stress interferes with your appetite
The stress can affect how satisfied and full we feel. It decreases body’s sensitivity to leptin, which is also known as satiety hormone. The leptin is produced by fat cells to tell the brain (in the hypothalamus) that we’re full after food has arrived in the bloodstream. This impact on leptin sensitivity is also known as leptin resistance, and often leads to overeating or bingeing as there seems to be no ‘off-switch’ to appetite. The leptin regulates your meal timings. But, if you are snacking after the meals due to stress related cravings, the leptin will get used to that. The hormone and its sensitivity can be increased by stress reduction, lowering blood sugar balance and exercise.