How Stress and Weight Gain are Related

Dr. Doni was quoted in an article this week in the Health News section of NorthJersey.com. The piece, “How stress can affect your waistline” was written by Danielle Rose, a friend and patient of Dr. Doni’s.

How Stress and Weight Gain are RelatedAs I often say, stress is a natural condition of life. While we can’t eliminate stress, we can seek to manage it better so that we smooth out the peaks and valleys of your body’s stress response.

The “fight or flight” syndrome, directly linked to adrenaline responses to stress, has been a biological factor since the dawn of humanity. It was a survival mechanism against predators in the animal world.

In contemporary times, the biological response is the same even though there isn’t (not usually!) the threat of predators. Since common stressors are not usually life threatening but more long term, not allowing an immediate resting period afterward, people are more likely to grab a sandwich, sit in front of the TV, or continue tackling other stressful situations while stress hormones such as cortisol are still high.

So how does stress relate to weight gain?

Stress triggers both adrenaline and cortisol, adrenaline being the immediate response. Because cortisol is essential to our natural circadian rhythm—with levels rising in early morning to wake us and lowering at night so we can sleep—when the stress response is constantly turned on, cortisol levels can easily go out of whack. They range too high, too low, or simply settle at the wrong level at the wrong time of day, all of which makes weight gain more likely. For more about how to know whether your stress response is out of balance, please read this.

Cortisol then affects other hormones which affect body weight, such as thyroid and insulin. When thyroid function decreases, weight gain is one of the common symptoms. When insulin function decreases, your body is going to turn carbohydrates into storage (weight gain) instead of burning them.

Stress also disrupts digestive function. When the body is under stress, and cortisol is too high or too low, the focus gets redirected from the digestion to the muscular tissues, reducing the body’s ability to digest food. When food is not digested, it ends up affecting your metabolism in a negative way.

Additionally, cortisol directly affects the nervous system and neurotransmitters—including serotonin and dopamine, which can cause food cravings and mood changes that can affect your weight. Research demonstrates that stress is a major underlying cause of depression and anxiety. This makes sense when you consider how significantly the stress hormone cortisol affects our neurotransmitters, the biochemical that determine mood, energy, and focus.

So, what can you do—right now—to get on the right path?

We can’t eliminate stress. What we can do is support our bodies under stress. Take a break even if it’s in small chunks of time. You don’t need the whole day off. Research says even ten to fifteen minutes of exercise or short breaks can be beneficial to your stress response. It helps the mind relax as well as helping the body restore optimal cortisol levels.

Stress Remedies Kindle eBook

I have a lot of info here on my blog, or you can download my new 40-page Kindle ebook—Stress Remedies: How Your Can Reduce Your Stress and Boost Your Health in Just 15 Minutes a Day—it’s only 99 cents and includes a quick and easy quiz to help you get to understand how your body has been affected by stress. It also includes a whole section on activities you can choose—cost-free, supplement-free things you can do—to rebalance your cortisol and stress response.

Supporting your heath, as always!

–Dr. Doni
16th Jan 2015

How stress can affect your waistlineThis is a digest; excerpts from the original article are used by permission from NorthJersey.com. You can find the complete piece here.

Photo Credit: “The best weight loss tips for you !” by Tanvir Alam is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Changed from original: Added text overlays.