Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Stress Leads to Weight Gain

We certainly put our bodies through a lot on a daily basis. Think about it - we push ourselves to do things we're not meant to do, overexert our muscles and organs and yet we deprive ourselves of some of the bare essentials of life like sleep, relaxation and physical activity that are meant to reset the balance - heck sometimes we even forget to breathe! These factors, in addition to some relics of our evolutionary past can help answer the question of why we tend to pack on the pounds while under stress.

For starters, busybodies, workaholics and other people who are particularly stressed tend to get fewer hours of sleep each night. A lack of sleep has been shown time and time again to lead to weight gain, so we've got part of the answer there. Additionally, in times of stress, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol that result in the storage of excess fat, especially around the tummy. We also know that this is the most dangerous and deadly place to store fat on our bodies. This used to be a survival mechanism for our ancestors who didn't have reliable access to food, and also had to run away from hungry beasts to escape death - That's what I call stressful -but these days, simply sitting in rush hour traffic has the same effect. And finally, as if that wasn't enough, it's now been found that the act of eating itself brings us even more joy and pleasure when we're stressed, and that little bit of happiness is so intoxicating that we keep on eating! Researchers have found that eating can help reduce stress, so it's not surprising that under stress, we eat more! Can you say 'comfort food'?.

But don't fret - weight gain under times of stress is not inevitable. It has been shown that even small amounts of pleasurable foods can reduce our stress levels. So basically, all you need is just a little bit of 'comfort food', a little reflection and deep breathing (seriously, for maybe ten minutes a day or when you need a 'moment'- you can do it), a little physical activity sprinkled in here and there (walking to work or getting off the bus one stop early - just need at least 30 minutes a day and you can spread it out) and going to be 30-60 min earlier each day.

If you think these suggestions are impossible or unreasonable, a very wise person once told me 'you never know what you can do until you try'. I'm sure you apply this reasoning to your daily life in regards to your job, maybe school and your relationships, so giving an honest effort is without a doubt something you can do. You're absolutely capable!