It may come as a surprise to some that stress causes problems when it comes to digestion. When people experience issues with digestion they tend to look at the physical causes, and stress hardly seems to come into play. It is for this reason that stress hinders weight loss and why dieters need to realize how stress impacts the body and causes a loss of nutrients.
Stress and weight loss are closely related because stress causes the digestive system to get out of whack. Stress makes part of the digestive system sensitive. This leads many people to have a stress and anxiety related reaction such as “butterflies” or diarrhea. Not everyone will have reactions like this, so it is reasonable to believe there is no link between stress and weight loss. Stress has a negative impact on the production of intestinal flora and antibodies in our digestive system that will produce potentially severe physical reactions from the body. Stress will decrease the efficiency of the immune system leading to a higher likelihood of sickness and infection, meaning less likelihood of exercise and healthy eating habits.
Stress and weight loss are also indirectly related because when people feel stress and anxiety they have a tendency to use food as a comfort mechanism, which can lead to excessive calorie intake and junk foods that are not good for you running you down and leaving you feeling sluggish. How often do you see someone who is stressed to the hilt grab an apple?
How Stress Impacts Health
Studies show that stress causes the release of a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone has become known as “the stress hormone” because it is secreted by the adrenal glands in times of high stress to assist with the “fight or flight” instinct to handle stress and survive. Cortisol is normal in the body and plays a role in glucose metabolism, maintaining regular blood pressure levels and insulin levels, immune system function and the body’s inflammatory response. The small releases of this hormone will provide small bursts of energy, increased memory retention and lower sensitivity to pain in order to promote survival in stressful situations, but when the body cannot properly relax, an increased production of cortisol and consistent higher levels in the body will cause: higher blood pressure, lower immunity, reduced thyroid function, increased fat levels in the abdominal area, and a decrease in muscle tissue and bone density.
With stress comes cortisol, and with the negative effects of high cortisol levels, the link between stress and weight loss becomes very apparent. With your body working against you to increase belly fat and cholesterol levels, reducing your immune function and allowing sickness to take over, and increasing the risk for many life-threatening conditions, it is important to maintain a low-stress lifestyle to improve your health and weight loss efforts.
Battling Stress to Stay Relaxed
To combat the impacts of stress on a diet and weight loss efforts, there are several things that can be done. First of all, learning to recognize stress and how to cope with it in it a non-food related manner is very important. In identifying the stresses in life, you can take steps to find healthier ways to handle them and maybe even find ways to cut them out of life all together. Relaxation helps with diet and weight loss, so spend more time relaxing than you do stressing. Make time to unwind and slow down from the fast paced life. Getting an ample amount of sleep each night will ensure that your body can recuperate will assist with stress and weight loss, and give you plenty of time to relax.
Stressed? Go for a brisk walk or run instead of crashing in front of the television with a bag of chips. Sometimes stress is inevitable, but channeling the stress in a positive way, such as exercising, will help your diet and weight loss more than it will hurt it.