How stress can influence weight gain
We all go through periods of time in our lives when the demands are greater and the stress load is heavier. Regardless of the reasons – illness, relationship difficulties, work struggles, caring for an aging parent or ailing child – there can be a physical impact. We may turn to food for comfort, or we may not nourish ourselves adequately. During times of stress there are actual physiological changes that happen in our bodies, one of which is weight gain. It may not happen overnight, but if we do not pay attention to our body’s needs, over time we may notice we are putting on the pounds.
Our adrenal glands govern our stress response, by secreting hormones relative to our stress levels. They actually help control many hormonal cycles and functions in our body. When the adrenal glands are overworked, the body prepares for disaster, by storing fat and calories. We crave foods, we lose precious energy, and we gain weight.
How stress becomes physical
For millions of years, humans were forced to protect themselves from environmental factors. Life and death circumstances have evolved around the ability to understand danger, and seek protection and survival. If you were being chased by a predator, your adrenal glands initiated a “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline and cortisol into the body. These hormones provided extra physical energy and strength from stored carbohydrates and fats.
While most of our stressors are not the same as our earliest ancestors, the body’s natural course of evolution has maintained this original fight-or-flight stress response. But whether we are being physically threatened or not, with any increased stress our body looks to its stored fuel, and then replenishes it when used. Also, with increased levels of cortisol, our body also does not respond as well to leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full, so we eat more.
Modern-day stress may be more psychological than physiological, but it is also more constant. Many of us face chronic stress as a way of life, which means we have consistently elevated levels of cortisol.
Eat well for healthy adrenal glands
What you eat matters.
Although it sounds ironic, if you want your body to believe that it is not in danger of starving to death, you need to eat healthy food at regular intervals. Since cortisol helps regulate blood sugar, keeping glucose levels balanced will take some of the stress off the adrenal glands. Three nutritious meals and two healthy snacks spread out across the day will keep our adrenal glands steady.
When you eat matters.
Our natural circadian rhythms can help us know when our bodies need nourishment and fuel. Cortisol’s cycle complements our body’s own rhythms, although is highest in the morning and declines gradually throughout the day. When we eat we elevate our cortisol, so it’s ideal to consume larger meals earlier in the day, which also helps our body prepare itself for restful sleep at night.
Have healthy foods on hand. It may be easy to reach for sweets and caffeine for quick energy, but these actually backfire on us, dropping our blood sugar levels rapidly. Reaching for micronutrient-rich foods, such as lean protein, avocado, fresh fruits and vegetables, garlic, and ginger will more adequately support adrenal functioning.
Our weight management program offers clients the opportunity to address barriers of weight loss, such as stress and provides information and support on how to develop healthier habits and bodies. If
you would like further information on our weight loss program, please contact the NDH team via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 6021 0557.