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Is Stress Causing Weight Gain?

We all experience stress in our day to day life by some or the other way. Sometimes stress can be a positive force, motivating you to perform well. But when there is too much stress, like, financial problems, marriage, work or school pressure, aggressive behavior, relationship difficulties, death in the family, too much busy schedule all these can affect person’s mental and physical health and become harmful.

Why people gain weight when under stress?

Your body responds to all stresses in exactly the same way, be it emotional or physical. So when under stress your brain releases larger quantities of “stress hormone” cortisol which is made in the adrenal glands. Most bodily cells have got cortisol receptors which affect different functions in the body. Controlling blood sugar level, regulate metabolism, reducing inflammation, assist with memory

formulation, blood pressure and also supports the developing foetus. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.

Under stress when cortisol level goes up leads to higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. So instead of healthy foods you reach out for cookies, burger, aerated drinks, ice creams which are called “comfort foods”.

Fatty and sugary foods are usually the big culprits, because lots of us have such a strong love for them!!

Cortisol encourages your body to store fat—especially visceral fat, which is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels which may lead to heart disease and diabetes.

How to deal with it ?

When stress hormone levels are high production of the muscle-building hormone testosterone slows down, though a male sex hormone small quantities of testosterone are released by ovaries in females . Over time, this drop causes a decrease in your muscle mass, so you burn fewer calories.

Balanced nutrition is of utmost importance if you want to regain muscle mass by reducing fat; especially, belly fat. Gain in muscle will make gut stronger and body will be immune to diseases.

Indeed, some foods may help stabilize blood sugar or your emotional response.

1. Eat healthy Breakfast – You get energy from the first hour and you’ll be less hungry the rest of the day. You’ll tend to eat healthier if your day starts with a strong & healthy breakfast like omelette or cooked pulses. If you have got busy schedule carry some healthy alternative to breakfast like fruits, nuts, dry fruits, smoothies.

The more you eat vit. C, magnesium, zinc rich foods, the less will be the impact of cortisol on your system.

2. Eat Whole Foods majority of times – Eat unprocessed and unrefined (or little refined) foods as much as possible to their natural state. Examples, poultry, eggs, veggies, legumes, rice, fruits, nuts.

3. Eat Healthy Fats– Healthy fats improve fat loss and health. They also satiate and as they are digested slowly keeps you fuller for longer time. Avoid artificial trans-fats & margarine. Balance your fat intake.

Sources of omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, avocado and walnuts

4. Drink Water – water loss impair muscle recovery. Drinking water not only prevents from dehydration but also from frequent hunger pangs since thirst can be mistaken as hunger. You can drink at least 2 litres of water in a day if not suffering from particular diseases like kidney disease where there is restriction on water.

5. Give in to cravings‚ a little – When stress drives you towards something sweet or salty, it’s okay to grab a little. It’s much better to indulge in a small way and cut off your cortisol response before it gets out of control. Though high in calories dark chocolate or banana has found to improve mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Thereby reducing cortisol levels and ultimately reducing health concerns.

6. Curtail caffeine– When you combine stress with caffeine, it raises cortisol levels more than stress alone consuming the equivalent of more than 3 cups of coffee while under mild stress boosted cortisol by about 25% and kept it up for 3 hours.

Replace it with some natural drinks like aam panna, lemon jaggery water, sugarcane juice or buttermilk. They are good stress relievers

7. Get good sleep – Studies have shown that less than 7 hours of sleep continually not only increases level of stress hormone – cortisol but also increases levels of hunger boosting hormone ghrelin.

While making these above changes in your lifestyle give little time for physical activities which will also have a positive impact on your health. Secondly, very important is effective communication, be it with your family or people at workplace. Half of the things get resolved when you have good communication.

All struggle with stress once in a while. It’s up to you to take charge of your tension as best you can. Resisting the urge to overeat is a great start.

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