Harmful Ways Stress and Weight Impact Your Life

By: Dr. Alwyn Wong | Brain Function | Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 11:53 AM

stress and weight lossNo matter how hard we try, it is impossible to avoid stress. Stress can be short term, such as getting in a minor car accident or it can be long-term, lasting weeks, months or even years. Examples include dealing with the stress of divorce or the loss of a loved one. Research shows that some stressors can lead to health problems, and can be an obstacle for those who are focused on weight loss.

Stress and Weight loss

So your favorite outfit doesn’t seem to fit anymore and you can’t figure out why or perhaps you are on a weight loss program but still feel heavy around the waist. You could be one of millions of people who are experiencing daily stressors that can lead to health problems. Stressful situations can create health problems and stone-wall those weight loss goals because of cortisol. Studies show that the hormone is produced in response to stress. It controls energy and metabolism levels. In the short-term Cortisol is beneficial because it uses fat stores in the body for energy when required. It can be harmful; however, when levels are high due to stress. It can lead to fat in the abdomen, as well as bone and muscle loss.

The Research on Stress and Weight loss

Research at Northwestern University indicates social and emotional experiences have an impact on our hormones. During experiments at the university people who went to bed feeling sad and lonely had high Cortisol levels the following day and also reported feeling fatigued. This isn’t the only study that supports the notion that happiness can help ward off health problems. Studies in Europe, including one out of the University College London, published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, states people who are less stressed and have more happiness day to day produce fewer harmful chemicals like Cortisol and are less likely to suffer from heart diseases.

There are three other common stressors that can cause your Cortisol level to spike…loud noises such as construction, long daily commutes to and from work, and prolonged work-outs. Ear-plugs to cut down on the noise could help, taking public transit instead of sitting in traffic is an option to avoid stressful commutes, and making your gym visits just a little shorter would do the trick.

Jet Lag and Health implications

We’ve all heard that jet lag can make us feel worn down, but “social jet lag” creates health problems according to a study published in the journal ‘Current Biology’. “Social jet lag” is the practice of following a different sleep schedule during the weekdays verses the weekends.

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The sleeping habits of 65 thousand people were studied by the University of Munich’s Institute of Medical Psychology and people with different weekday verses weekend sleep schedules had triple the odds of being overweight. Researchers discovered that the body mass index of people who were overweight seemed to widen as their weekday and weekend time zones widened. Previous research has linked “social jet lag” higher BMI to irregular sleep schedules and diseases such as diabetes.

Worrying and Weight loss

As mentioned earlier mood can have a negative impact on our well-being, while happiness seems to keep us healthier. Chronic worrying can push many people to seek relief in the wrong places. Harmful habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, drug use, and alcohol consumption are examples.

Recognizing what is causing our stress is the first step to eliminating the problem. Doctors say many of the top stressors that threaten our health can be tackled with common sense approaches. They recommend regular exercise, eating healthy, meditating or doing some other form of relaxation such as journaling, try simple stretching every day, get plenty of sleep, and don’t be afraid to speak to your family doctor about stress in your life.

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