I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
Can stress make you fat? Absolutely. Most people are stress eaters; they eat more and make poorer food choices when stressed, so when they learn to relax and include stress management in their self-care routines, they eat less and make better food choices.
Many people don’t understand that you need to relax in order to lose weight. They think that since relaxing activities, such as yoga, guided visualization, or meditation, don’t burn many calories, they are not effective methods for weight loss. Nothing could be further from the truth. Weight loss is much more complicated than calories in, calories out.
How Stress Causes Weight Gain
Stress depletes your adrenal glands and causes your body to go into survival mode. When this happens, your body produces cortisol and you store fat, especially around the middle. Stress causes you to crave sugar and other simple carbs which leads to weight gain. To emotionally cope with stress, you often reach for food when you’re not hungry and soon you find yourself caught in a vicious cycle of stress, exhaustion, and overeating.
Here are a few other ways stress causes you to gain weight.
- makes your cells less sensitive to insulin which in turn can lead to diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- raises your blood sugar
- leads to insomnia which causes excess hunger and cravings for sweet and fatty foods
- causes hormone imbalances
- increases the rate you store fat
How to Relax and Lose Weight
If food and emotional eating is your favorite form of stress relief, it’s time to learn some new stress management skills. Look at the stressors in your life and see what can be cut back, eliminated, or delegated to someone else. Look at your time wasters and use that time for more fulfilling and relaxing pursuits.
There are many wonderful ways to relax that don’t involve overeating.
- Take up yoga
- Learn deep breathing
- Listen to relaxation and meditation CDs
- Follow along with an exercise video
- Take a swim, bath or a shower
- Go for a walk
- Take up a relaxing hobby
Many people find adult style coloring books, including zentangles, fun and relaxing. Or, take up knitting or crochet. All these things can be done while watching TV and can easily distract you from evening eating.
Allow yourself plenty of time to practice these things; don’t wait until stress hits. When stressed, we tend to regress to default behavior. Practice them until they become second nature to you. They will feel awkward at first, but after a while, they will become as comforting and routine to you as overeating is right now.
If your stress level is high, the best thing you can do for your health and weight is to learn how to let go and relax. Trying to make changes when under stress is doubly difficult; our brains don’t learn and retain new information easily when stressed. So learn to chill out, hang loose, and when you feel better, you will eat better.
Would you like to learn stress management and self-care skills to help manage your stress and stress eating? Contact me for a free consultation!