Did you know that stress causes you to gain weight? I know that might seem obvious if you are a stress eater who tends to overeat when you are dealing with stressful situations. I am not talking about stress eating, which is overeating causing extra calories and extra pounds. I’m talking about the stress hormones causing chemical reactions that increases the fat cells in the abdominal region as known as trunkal weight gain. This happens as a result of stress hormones called cortisol which sets off a cascade of chemical reactions that result in creation of fat cells around the internal organs of your abdomen, which negatively impacts your long-term health.
While most of us as women don’t want to look at fat, it is actually more important that we acknowledge where we accumulate fat on our bodies. The fat tissue develops around the internal organs of the abdomen which gives you the muffin top that make you look and feel fat. The extra fat that accumulates around the waist can be an indicator of stress levels. The increase of fat around the belly robs us of our health and vitality and puts us at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
When we are stressed, our body releases stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine. Epinephrine is released and has a very short time span in our body. When cortisol is released its effects can last much longer and cause adverse effects over a long period of time. Under non-stressful conditions, our cortisol levels should be highest in the morning causing us to wake up for the day and then decline with a small spike in the afternoon followed by another decline until they are at the lowest levels around 10:30 in the evening. However, when we are under chronic or long-term stress, our cortisol levels will be elevated during the day, and this higher level of cortisol causes us to store fat around our waist or mid-sections. Healthy waist sizes for women are below 35 inches while healthy waist sizes for men are below 40 inches.
So what should we be doing if we find out waist line is over the healthy limit? Managing our stress isn’t just good for our mental health, it is necessary for our physical health too. We need to develop a stress management plan as part of our fitness or healthy eating plan. Stress management tools can include activities like exercise, relaxation techniques or deep breathing. You might be surprised that the foods you eat can be part of your stress management plan too. If you want ideas for foods that will help you with stress, then check out my Stress Busting Recipes download. It can help you maximize your meals while reducing your stress at the same time.