Why stress makes you fat and how you can beat it

Saravanan "Sharu" Hariram

February 3, 2021

Are you having trouble fitting into your favourite LBD (Little Black Dress) despite sweating it out at the gym? Believe it or not, stress could be the culprit.

Numerous studies conducted over the past two decades have revealed that prolonged stress not only makes one prone to faster ageing, heart disease and stroke but also stress makes you fat.

While stress affects all of us, women need to be more watchful. A 2011 survey conducted by Nielsen in 21 countries had found Indian women to be the most stressed on earth. Other studies have shown that women are more likely to binge when upset compared to men. It’s easy to figure the rest.

Wondering exactly how stress increases your waistline? Here are the reasons:

The Cortisol Connect

When we are stressed, the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, triggering the release of various hormones that give a burst of energy. One of them is cortisol. While it is normal for our cortisol levels to vary through the day, when we are chronically stressed, this hormone’s level goes up — and stays there. This increases motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Plus, the body resists weight loss because it starts thinking times are tough and you may starve so it hoards fat from the food you eat.

 Super-size me

High cortisol makes one eat in bigger quantities so you are more likely to reach for the largest tub of popcorn. Worse, it slows down your metabolism making it tougher to shed weight.

Sweet cravings

You don’t reach for carrot sticks when you are stressed; you’d rather drown your worries in a tall chocolate milkshake. High cortisol plus the fact that stress messes up the brain’s reward system leaves one lusting for foods high in fat and sugar.

 All work, no workout

Exercise is probably the last thing on your to-do list when you are a bundle of nerves. This greatly contributes to weight gain. Moreover, stressed individuals are more likely to eat take-away rather than ‘waste time’ cooking healthy dinners.

Tummy trouble

Studies have shown that stress causes more fat deposition in the abdominal area compared to the rest of the body. This is toxic as tummy fat has been linked to diabetes and heart disease.

The good news is that there are ways to beat both the stress and the hunger pangs it induces. Here’s how:

 Breathe easy

Ask yourself “will this matter a month or year later” and stop worrying about things you can’t control. Practice deep breathing, meditation, go for long walks or make time for a hobby.

Cha, cha, cha

Sign up for a dance or aerobics class. A good workout will decrease cortisol and lead to mood-uplifting hormones. It can also help speed your metabolism so you burn the calories you amassed owing to stress-driven binges.

Catch some zzz’s

Limit your intake of caffeine, turn off the idiot box and dim the lights before hitting the sack every night. Sound sleep will make your cortisol levels drop like they are supposed to at night and you will soon feel, and also look, better.

Ditch dieting

Long-term starvation not only makes one more prone to raiding the refrigerator when stressed, it also leads to muscle loss and immune system depression. So eat right to stay fit. And, if you are unable to control the urge to munch when the deadline is approaching, go for salads or mixed nuts.

Working out not only makes you healthy but also reduces stress. Our experts can build you a custom plan to fit into your lifestyle. Visit today

About the Author

Saravanan “Sharu” Hariram is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer with a passion for bodybuilding. Combining his love for fitness with his career, Sharu did his certification in Sports Nutrition, and Rehabilitation and Healing Nutrition. Currently a Master Trainer with HealthifyMe, he specializes in Weight Management, Marathon Training, and Physical Rehabilitation. In his 20+ years of experience, Sharu has always maintained that one’s mind must have control over their body in order to lead a healthy life. At HealthifyMe, he continues to follow his passion while helping those around him realise their fitness goals.

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