Why Stress is Making Us Fat

This week I am going to speak to a topic I am sure we are all too familiar with – stress. This topic comes at the request of one of my long-term clients, Linda! So without further delay, lets get right into it shall we!

It is no secret that high levels of stress are no good – for more reasons than just one. High levels of chronic stress are associated with higher blood pressure, higher risk of a cardiopulmonary event (i.e. heart attack), lower bone density, and of course, weight gain. So, we can all agree stress is pretty terrible, right? As you have probably assumed by now, in this article I am going to be zeroing in on why exactly stress is adding inches around the waistline.

Let’s start with the basics – what is happening internally when we get stressed? For starters, a steroid-based hormone known as cortisol is released. Cortisol has a few notable functions mainly related to the goal of getting the body primed for fight or flight being:

  1. Increased glucose in the blood
  2. Improves the brains ability to use glucose
  3. Suppresses immune system, digestion, and growth processes

Out of these, the first action listed is going to be the primary culprit in the fat gain associated with stress. In response to higher blood sugar (or blood glucose) our body involves another hormone, insulin to attempt to maintain homeostasis.Side note: you will notice a common trend with every process in the body; they almost always occur in a way that promotes a homeostatic environment. Insulin is important to recognize here as it is what promotes storage of glucose as either glycogen (in the muscle) or fat. With that said, high levels of chronic stress lead to higher levels of insulin being present and then BOOM… you gain fat.

So what can we do about this?

  1. Control Your Stress: Whether it is by talking out your frustrations/emotions, meditation, or other means, find a way to gain better control over stressful situations. When stress is not addressed and is allowed to fester, we run into longer term health issues that become harder and harder to correct, especially if stress levels continue to rise.
  2. Be Active: Exercise is perhaps the best prescription for stress. Consistent exercise will produce “feel good” hormones known as endorphins that are capable of relieving general tension. Make it a goal to hit the gym at least 3 to 4 times per week for 30 to 45 minutes per session.
  3. Pay Attention in the Kitchen: Cut back on stress inducing foods (i.e. high sugar content) and be conscious of your water intake. During times of high stress we tend to forget to sometimes eat or drink like we would on a normal day and providing your body with the nutrition and hydration it needs will provide you the greatest chance at returning to homeostasis.

Ready to take your fitness game to the next level? If you live in Allen, Dallas, or Plano, make sure to get your free day pass to join Hidden Gym! Become a part of the most motivating place in the DFW area that will help you live a healthier life!

Check out our upcoming events and stay tuned for the next experiences that will challenge you to learn and grow!