Have you been trying to lose weight, but you just can’t seem to make the scale budge, no matter how much you exercise or control what you eat? If you’ve been burning the midnight oil every night, that could have something to do with it. Chronic stress – the kind we get from worrying over family obligations or the constant work we have to do in the ever limited amount of time that we have – can undermine our weight loss efforts and impact our health in a number of ways.
Here’s how chronic stress may even be making you fat:
1) Slows Your Metabolism
Your metabolism is essentially a cocktail of various hormones in your body. When all the hormones are there in the right combinations, your organs and your bodily processes – like digestion and sugar regulation – work the way they need to for optimal health.
Chronic stress can throw your hormones out of balance, slowing yourmetabolism. Adrenaline and cortisol flood your body during periods of stress, and they can slow your body’s ability to burn calories, fats and sugar.
2) Messes with Hunger Cues
Hormones are also responsible for your hunger cues. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for making you feel hunger, and leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full. When you are under a state of stress, your body suppresses leptin levels and increases ghrelin levels, making you want to eat more but not feeling sated. You end up taking in far more calories than your body needs, putting on fat.
3) Increases Cravings
Chronic stress doesn’t just make you feel hungry, it also makes you want to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar. Stress triggers intense cravings, which can cause you to eat more unhealthy junk foods that will make you gain fat.
Once you eat these foods, you will also get a rush of feel-good hormones, which will pacify your stress, creating a response that you will try to replicate when you are feeling stressed again later. It creates a cycle that can be hard to break.
4) Wrecks Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin is the hormone that regulates your blood sugar. When you are underchronic stress, your body is not able to regulate insulin, as well, which can cause a number of problems. Insulin sensitivity can lead to more storage of fat in the body. It can also create swings in blood sugar, which causes you to eat more junk foods that are high in calories and fat. All of this can make it hard for you to lose weight, and may actually make you gain weight instead.
5) Encourages Abdominal Fat
High levels of cortisol released during chronic stress can have a number of harmful side effects. One nasty byproduct that impacts your weight is the storage of fat around the abdomen. Even if you are able to lose weight, high cortisol levels can cause fat to cling to your abdominal area, creating an unsightly pooch or love handles.
If you have been trying to lose weight for some time without success, it may be time to look beyond your diet and exercise program. Chronic stress can undermine your weight loss goals and may even be contributing to your weight gain. Look for ways to reduce or eliminate stress in your life and you may be surprised to find that the pounds just melt off.