Eat right, exercise, and you’ll lose weight, right? Perhaps. But diet is only part of the equation. Sometimes there is more than meets that eye when it comes to body fat, weight gain, and the health risks associated with an expanding waistline.
Stress can play a significant role in what you eat, how you eat, and how you store fat. And none of it is good.
Aside from leading to cravings for comfort food and acting as a fleeting moment of relief, stress can influence your metabolism in a significant way. When you’re stressed and there is a lot of cortisol—the stress hormone—circulating in your blood, you’re more likely to store fat in your belly, have a hard time burning calories, and it severely inhibits blood glucose metabolism and insulin levels. In other words, you’re at greater risk for insulin resistance and accumulating visceral fat.
Visceral fat is a term to describe the fat in your midsection. It’s a dangerous fat and it’s closely associated with several chronic health conditions like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and more. And it is very likely that being stressed contributes to the accumulation of fat in the mid-section.
You may experience stress for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s mild, like sitting in a traffic jam or preparing to host the family for Thanksgiving dinner. But it could also be chronic and more severe, like dealing with an illness or the loss of a loved one. Whatever the cause, it could be affecting you in more ways than you think.
If you’re trying to lose weight and reduce the risk for a number of conditions—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, etc.—stress management is an essential part of the process. Some useful ways to manage stress include:
- Regular activity. It’s not only a way to burn calories, activity can also reduce blood cortisol levels. The key thing is finding higher that you enjoy, so if weight training and jogging aren’t for you, maybe tennis or dancing is! Mix and match activities and try do something almost every day.
- Make an Eating Plan: When a stressful time is coming, make a plan. A plan can help you get ready to combat stress. Having healthful, nutrient-dense meals can fill you up and reduce the urge to snack on comfort foods that promote fat gain.
- Get Perspective: We all experience stress differently, and sometimes talking to a friend or family member can put a situation in a different light. Getting perspective might alter your outlook and help relieve stress.