Being overweight can stress you out. The cruel irony is that being stressed can make you fat. And the last thing you need when you already feel like your work, your relationship—anything—is falling apart, is to also feel you’ve lost control over your weight. While the best thing to do is beat the unwanted pounds at the source—namely, the thing that is causing you stress—being aware of how stress causes you to gain weight might also help in the battle to burn those emotional calories. If you can recognize that you are not actually hungry, but just stressed, that might keep you from reaching for any unnecessary foods.
Here’s How Stress Affects Your Weight
1. Your Metabolism Slows Down
You’ve probably heard of the fight or flight response. This is when you’re in a stressful situation, and your body sends out all of these signals for you to either stay and fight, or to run! Some of those signals are hormones, and one of those hormones is unfortunately cortisol- the “stress hormone.” When cortisol levels are high, this can greatly slow down your metabolism, meaning you naturally burn fewer calories, whether exercising or sitting still. You are putting your energy into your fight or flight response, your body is actually gripping tightly to your fat, not letting it go.
2. You Crave Fatty Foods
Stress has been shown to lead to cravings of salty, sugary and fatty foods. You’re not the only one who suddenly needs McDonalds or Ben and Jerry’s when in a stressful situation. The damage doesn’t stop at the type of food, but also the amount. Stress and nervous energy can lead you to eat more than you normally would. Ever notice how many Oreos you can down while nervously pacing around the kitchen?
3. Blood Sugar Swings
Your blood sugar is a testy thing. It seems like it swings at the drop of a hat…or just a drop of sugar. Prolonged stress can lead to major blood sugar fluctuations, which not only leads to cravings but it also causes feelings of fatigue and mood swings; both of which will make you reach for a snack.
4. Fat Storage (especially in your stomach)
When you’re stressed, your body actually stores fat differently, particularly in the abdominal region. Not only is a flabby tummy aesthetically unappealing, but it is actually linked to health problems like diabetes and heart attack more than fat stored in other areas of the body.
5. Too Busy To Cook
One last reason that being stressed could be making you fat actually has nothing to do with your body, but with your time. If you’re stressed, you’re most likely busy! Even if it’s just emotional stress, you’re probably feeling too drained to cook. No time and no energy usually equals a run to a fast food restaurant, or at least picking up pre-packaged and processed foods.