Really Want to Lose Pounds? Stress Less!

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Ever noticed that when you’re under stress, you tend to gain weight? There’s a big link between stress and weight gain. Here are a few reasons why.

1. Think about it. When you’re stressed, there’s a good chance you’re not interested in label reading or in making healthy choices. You just want the quickest, simplest, most convenient, readily available food that’s around. The thought of making healthy choices seems like another task to add to your already over-extended “to-do” list. Unfortunately, those options that are often found in a bag or box do nothing to fuel us but easily pack on the pounds.

2. Another thing that’s happening is when you’re under stress, you’re just not interested in pre-planning. You know that saying, “If you failed to plan, then plan to fail?” That’s also true with healthy eating. When you’re stressed, you’re not interested in taking the time to plan because you’re consumed with your stress. 

3. Also, when you’re under stress, you look for comfort foods. They’re called comfort foods for a reason. When we eat them, we’re not just eating them for the taste; we’re also looking for the memories and feelings we had when they were served to us in the past. Typically, these are foods that are loaded with fat, sugar, and calories.

4. When we’re under stress, we’re also looking for a release of two neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine. These brain chemicals give us a sense of peace and calm, as well as trigger the reward centers of the brain. Unfortunately, foods that cause weight gain are often the foods that trigger the release of these chemicals and that’s why we reach for them when we’re under stress.

5. When we’re stressed, we’re also secreting the stress hormone cortisol. One of the things cortisol will do is drive fat storage… right around your middle.

6. If you are an emotional eater, stress may trigger a binge, and here’s why. With emotional eating we eat to soothe, calm, numb and relax from our problems or our pain. We self-medicate and food is simply the drug of choice.

Of course, we know what happens the minute we’re done with that binge. We feel guilty and frustrated that this is the way that we’ve chosen to make ourselves feel better, but this is the system that we’ve chosen. This is the technique that we use to give ourselves temporary relief. If this is the method that you’ve chosen to feel better, this is enough to trigger a binge. Between the food choices we’re making, the extra chemicals that are being secreted as a result are the stress we’re feeling, the lack of interest in pre-planning, the emotional eating that we may be doing and more, it’s easy to see how stress leads to weight gain. So while extreme dieting or harsh treatments will help you lose weight, you may consider getting to the root of your stress, then finding healthy ways to manage and reduce it, in order to find a lasting and positive solution once and for all.

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  • Paula Gallagher
    Paula Gallagher
    Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
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    Dr. Rav Ivker
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    Susan writes about the connection between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
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February 2023