Why do we gain weight when we are stressed, and how can we avoid the impact on our figure? The psychology and biology of overeating related to stress and weight gain is true, the important thing is in addition to learning to control our stress levels, to avoid that it directly impacts our body weight.

Have you ever found yourself mindlessly eating ice cream or ice cream while you pondered your latest romantic rejection or eating a burger and fries in front of your computer while furiously trying to deliver a job at the last minute?

Maybe you’re a busy mom, eating cookies in your car while you take the kids back and forth to a series of activities. Or you are a small business owner desperately trying to make ends meet when you suddenly realize that your waistline has expanded.

If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, you are not alone and it is probably not your fault. Stress that lasts for a long time is a triple threat to weight: it increases our appetite, causes us to retain fat, and interferes with our willpower to implement a healthy lifestyle.

Reasons why stress makes us feel proud

Here are the top reasons why stress leads to weight gain and four great research-based coping strategies you can use to defend yourself.

The hormones

When your brain detects the presence of a threat, whether it’s a snake in the grass, a grumpy boss, or a large credit card account, it triggers the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH, and cortisol. .

Your brain and body prepare to handle the threat by making you feel alert, ready for action, and able to resist injury. In the short term, adrenaline helps you feel less hungry as your blood flows away from internal organs and large muscles to prepare you to “fight or flight.”

However, once the effects of adrenaline wear off, cortisol , known as ” the stress hormone ,” remains and begins to signal the body to replenish its food supply. Fighting wild animals, like our ancestors, consumed a lot of energy, so their bodies needed more stores of fat and glucose .

Today’s human, who sits on the couch worrying about how to pay the bill or works long hours on the computer to reach the deadline, doesn’t work with too much energy to deal with the stressor. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with a neuroendocrine system that didn’t get the update, so your brain will still tell you to reach for that cookie plate anyway.

The adrenaline

When we have a rush of adrenaline as part of our fight / flight response, we become restless and activated. Adrenaline is the reason for the feeling of “connection” we feel when we are stressed.

While we can burn a few extra calories by fidgeting or running around because we can’t stay still, anxiety can also trigger a ” thrill eating .”

Overeating or eating unhealthy foods in response to stress or as a way to calm down is a very common response. In the most recent American Psychological Association survey ” Stress in America, ” a surprising 40% of respondents reported dealing with stress in this way, while 42% reported watching television for more than 2 hours per day to deal with stress.

Being a couch potato also increases the temptation to overeat and be inactive, which means those extra calories aren’t burned. Anxiety can also cause you to eat more “mindlessly” as worrying thoughts spin in your head, without even focusing on the taste of food, how much you have eaten, or when you feel full. When you eat without thinking, you will probably eat more, but feel less satisfied.

Cravings and junk food

When we’re chronically stressed, we crave ” comfort foods ,” like a bag of potato chips or ice cream. These foods tend to be easy to eat, highly processed, and high in fat, sugar, or salt.

We crave these foods for biological and psychological reasons. Stress can wreck our brain’s reward system, or cortisol can make us crave more fat and sugar.

We can also have childhood memories, such as the smell of freshly baked cookies, that lead us to associate sweet foods with comfort. When we are stressed, we are also more likely to drive through the fast food place, rather than taking the time and mental energy to plan and cook a meal.

Working in urban areas can mean long and stuck commutes, which increase stress and interfere with willpower because we are hungrier when we get home later.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania showed, in laboratory mice, that being ” stressed ” by exposure to the smell of a predator leads the mice to eat more pellets of high-fat food, when given the option to eat. these instead of normal food.

As we have always mentioned in Lucid life, to reduce the effects of stress the best thing will always be to attack the causes that cause it, reduce or eliminate them by changing habits, and even changing our way of seeing life and seeing ourselves.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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