How Does Stress Lead to Weight Gain?Since weight is one the focal points of this book we need to address how stress leads to weight gain, and for that we need to take a look at human evolution. Human beings have evolved over millions of years to develop a distinct stress response mechanism. When attacked by a predator the human body uses its internal carbohydrate and fat stores to release adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, giving the body more energy for ‘fight or flight.’ This same response exists in humans today, only our main stressors are issues at work, emails, bills and other aspects of modern life. In this environment we still release cortisol and adrenaline, but we rarely need to ‘fight or flee.’ The result is that our bodies build up cortisol, a hormone that encourages energy storage. In short, excess cortisol makes us believe that we need to eat regardless of our actual demands for energy. And what does this led to in the long term…weight gain.
3 Ways to Manage Stress
Eat well and appropriatelyQuality:If your body is stressed the last thing it needs is the additional trouble of digesting poor quality, sugar filled foods. In order to minimise the stress associated with digestion try to eat good quality, nutritionally dense whole foods that nourish your body. (See chapter four for some more guidance) Quantity/Timing:Again, if your body is already stressed it doesn’t need the extra hassle of having to digest huge quantities of food in a single sitting. Try to spread out your meals evenly across the day. This will help keep glucose levels balanced and reduce stress on your adrenal glands. Cut the Caffeine:When you’re tired the easy thing to do is reach for coffee or an energy drink, but don’t! The caffeine only provides an additional stimulus to your adrenals, raising stress in the long term.
Calm YourselfMinimise electronics: Television, Smartphones, computers and other electronics may seem like a great idea, but they create unfavourable chemical changes in the body (the tired but wired feeling!) Sleep:You should be aiming for at least 8 hours of sleep every night. And if you’re truly looking to optimise your sleeping patterns then try to follow a natural circadian rhythm by sleeping from 10am until 6am every night. Breathe:Sometimes when we’re stressed our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. You’d be amazed at just how calming it can be to stop and take five big, deep diaphragmatic breaths.
Manage ExpectationsAt times in life it can feel like everyone and everything wants a piece of your time. Your family want X, your friends want Y, but before you can do any of that your boss wants Z, sound familiar?
- You need to start setting clear boundaries and sticking to them.
- You need to prioritise what’s really important and delegate or ignore the rest.