How Stress Affects Weight!

We often think about being healthy healthy as eating well and exercising; however, being healthy consists of wellness in all aspects of your life–mental and emotional health especially. Being a social worker in training–with my interest specifically in mental health–I recognize the significant correlation between stressful life situations and mental instability. And it is important to me that others understand how crucial self-care is to your mental and emotional state. Below are just a few ways daily stress can be harmful not only to your weight loss, but to your overall well-being.

When under stress, the stress hormones Cortisol and Epinephrine increase. It is documented that when Cortisol is high enough, LITERALLY looking at a donut changes your metabolism.

  • #1 best way to digest stress hormones is sleep–deep sleep will metabolize excess Cortisol and Epinephrine better than anything else. If you’re under stress and sleep only 3-4 hours per night, you will gain about 2 pounds over night because the stress hormones make your body retain water (a.k.a “liquid pounds”). It is best to take care of these liquid pounds before they turn into real pounds. Sleep as long as you need to, when you can.
  • 2nd thing is exercise–during physical activity, you’re increasing those “feel good” hormones that you usually go to sugar for. Taking a walk 3-4 times a week is as good as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression.
  • Anything you find sustainably pleasurable will decrease stress hormones–for example, laughter. It can even ultimately increase immunity and decrease pain. Having good social support and adding fun and joy into your life is critical to losing weight and staying healthy. 
  • Word of advice: When you’re upset OR stressed–don’t eat. When we are upset, we don’t have the connection to whether or not we’re satiated or full. We’re trying to fill a void that can never be filled with food.
  • One of the most crucial components of keeping off the weight is LOVE–love for yourself and love for other people. When you begin to take care of yourself, you begin to love yourself and you begin to show that to other people. This makes others enjoy being around you and want to feel the way you do. The more people you feel care about and love you, the safer you feel. When you don’t love yourself, you tend to isolate and close yourself off from others, or take on the perception that other people don’t love you. Thus, you begin to not feel safe. Your body then responds by raising stress hormones which hold onto weight.

So you see, healthy living isn’t just about diet and exercise–those are two VERY important components. But, overall it’s a combination of physical, emotional, and psychological components!

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