The Link Between Stress & Fat
We’ve all heard the rumors about the link between stress and fat. But what’s really going on? And what does the science tell us?
The Basics of Stress
Stress is a normal part of our lives, and if you’re not experiencing some kind of stress now and then, you’re probably not living. Stress is literally everywhere!
But it’s how we respond to stress that really matters for fat loss and weight gain.
When we encounter stress in our daily lives, we react to it both physically and mentally. In fact, we even react to the expectation or threat of a stressful experience. It’s these reactions to perceived or real threats that have a number of consequences for our health and well-being.
On a physical level, our bodies often respond to stress by engaging in the fight or flight response. Out heart rate increases, our blood pressure goes up, and resources are diverted to more vital bodily systems, all in order to help us deal with (or escape) the stressor. Part of the problem nowadays, of course, is that we experience this response to all kinds of stress, from traffic jams to negative social interactions.
A major component in the physiological stress response is cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. This hormone is released along with adrenaline to facilitate many of these responses.
When we encounter too much stress on a regular basis, however, we can see some problems with our health, including weight gain.
What’s the Link between Stress and Weight Gain?
Firstly, cortisol can deregulate our blood glucose levels over time, which can contribute to hunger spikes and interfere with a healthy diet. That being said, cortisol generally boosts your metabolism and actually burns off more fat.
The real problem with stress and weight gain comes down to how we deal with stress. Unfortunately, many of us cope with stress by eating, and this can contribute to serious weight gain and problems with losing fat over time. Furthermore, stress can interfere with our ability to make smart lifestyle choices, by making us anxious and emotionally drained. When we’re stressed and short on time, things get even worse.
There’s also the issue of sleep. When we’re more stressed out, we’re less likely to get a good night’s sleep. One night of poor sleep is enough to throw your hormones out of wack and lead to some pretty intense cravings and hunger spikes the next day.
So what’s the answer? It all really comes down to stress management. If you can learn to better manage your stress, you won’t see the same impact on your health and fitness generally, or on your ability to lose fat specifically. So make sure you’re not letting stress disrupt your healthy eating habits, or interfere with your sleep. Having a solid fitness and workout routine in place is also important and will help you better deal with stress when it does occur.
For more great tips on how to deal with stress, check out my article on Stress Relief and Exercise. You might also be interested in reading about these Foods that Fight Stress.
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