Hidden Cause of Weight Gain We Can't Ignore


Susan Ohtake, CPT

Everyone has to deal with some level of stress. I know some of us experience more stress than others, but ultimately, stress affects each one of us. The thing about stress that most people don't know about is its link to weight gain. Let me show you how (and why it's so important to reduce stress).

As mothers, we automatically stress about our kids, ourselves, and our family. If you throw work in the mix, then we're just a volcano waiting to burst. So how in the world can we really control our stress levels? If you really want to lose weight, you're going to have to figure out what works for you! You can't just keep ignoring stress if you want to be healthy.

Remember "Fight or Flight?"

When we're in some kind of stressful or dangerous situation, our body has a natural stress response known as "fight or flight". A chemical reaction occurs with cortisol and adrenaline that speeds up our heart rate, slows digestion, and forces blood flow to our major muscle groups. As a result, we get increased strength and a burst of energy. During 'fight or flight', our blood pressure and breathing rate also increases until the threat is gone. However, things don't go back to normal right away. It takes the body approximately twenty to sixty minutes to return to normal.

Combating Cortisol Overload

Now that you know about the stress hormone, cortisol, and its link to weight gain, you're probably wondering what you should do next. Here are a few suggestions:

Reduce The Source of Stress

While you can't do away with stress completely, there are some things you can do to lessen it. The first thing you'll need to do is actually identify where your stress is coming from. Maybe you're emotionally drained from work or suffering from a lack of sleep. Whatever it is, write down what you enjoy and do those when you're feeling stressed out.For instance, taking a walk outside or reading a book help me relax.

Exercise, But Not Too Much

Prepare to be mind blown by my next statement. Exercise is a good stress reliever, but too much is considered a physical stressor. In fact, doing high intensity workouts can increase cortisol and make you crave those bad foods your body doesn't need. It's certainly okay to do high intensity interval training, but keep the duration to 20-30 minutes per day. Any more than that and you're over-exercising (and spiking cortisol levels even higher!).

Don't Be Afraid To Eat Carbs

There is nothing wrong with consuming healthy carbohydrates. In fact, I encourage it. If you're under a lot of stress or pretty active, then you need to ensure that you're getting a sufficient amount of carbohydrates. There's no magic number as to how much because it differs for every one, but don't completely forego carbohydrates in an attempt to keep or get a small waistline. You could make yourself ill by cutting down too much, too soon.

Healthy carbohydrates include root vegetables and legumes. They give steady energy and assist in staving off hunger longer.

Getting Your Stress In Check

Once you start practicing stress alleviating activities, you may notice that the fat you had so much trouble getting off, finally starts to shed. The mental stressors we deal with daily have the potential to have much more damaging effects than the physical ones. So, give your mind and body the opportunity to rest and recovery. If you want to achieve your fitness goals, then you're going to have to work from the inside out.

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