If we were to talk about one thing we all have in common, that would certainly be stress. Data from a 2017 study conducted by the American Psychological Association shows that 3 out of 4 Americans have experienced at least one symptom of stress in the last month. Unfortunately, all this excess stress can lead to weight gain and it either occurs as a result of unhealthy eating choices or overeating, or as a response of the body to increased cortisol levels due to stress.
How stress affects our body
You may not notice the signs at first, but stress leaves its mark on the body, from changes in muscle mass and headaches to states of irritation, over-stress and lack of control. In short, stress can affect us both physically and mentally as well as emotionally. In most cases, the body responds to stress through weight gain.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, does nothing but stimulate your appetite, and that is why many people find comfort in eating. Moreover, a 2015 study shows that our body is metabolizing nutrients more slowly when under stress.
The risks of stress and extra kilos
When stress becomes difficult to control, long-term health problems occur. Depression, hypertension, insomnia, heart disease, anxiety, and obesity are all closely related to untreated chronic stress. The risks associated with weight gain are:
- heart diseases
- problems of reproductive function
- lung and respiratory tract problems
- increased joint pain
In addition, there is even evidence of a connection between obesity and certain cancers such as pancreatic, esophageal, colon, breast, and kidney cancer. Also, mental health can also suffer because depression and anxiety can occur.
How is weight gain due to stress diagnosed?
The only way you can tell if your weight gain is due to stress is through a visit to your doctor, who will pay close attention to your medical record and history, as well as other things like thyroid, which also can be responsible for the extra kilos.
How to reduce stress
Ultimately, stress affects us all, and while some face it several times a day, others experience it only when it interferes with daily tasks. When you feel stressed, there are a few steps you can take to get rid of stress:
- exercise for 20-30 minutes
- go out in nature
- nourish yourself with healthy food
- call a friend to support you
- remove a task from the to-do list
- take a 10-minute break to do yoga
- ask the family for help
- listen to music
- read a book
- go to bed an hour earlier
- learn to say “no” to things that can cause extra stress
- do breathing exercises for 10 minutes
- eliminate coffee and alcohol