The American Psychological Association conducted a Stress in America survey in 2017 that had some illuminating results.
For one, it reveals that three out of four Americans reported feeling at least one stress symptom in the last month. That stress comes from several places—the state of politics, the economy, money, healthcare, taxes, unemployment, crime, and much more.
Stress manifests itself in several ways: physically, mentally, and emotionally. It leaves many sleepless, anxious, depressed, or irritable. Another way stress is evident is through unexpected weight gain.
If this feels like you, you’re not alone. Know there are ways to combat stress, weight gain, and other unwanted symptoms of feeling strain or tension in your life. You deserve relief—so we’ve created this brief but actionable guide to feeling better.
Is There a Link Between Stress and Weight Gain?
It likely comes as no surprise that stress contributes to weight gain.
When somebody is stressed out, it’s not long before healthy eating goes on the back burner. Instead, someone might turn towards the quickest, easiest option—which isn’t always the best one.
Stress can cause individuals to:
- Forget to drink water
- Skip their meals or overeat
- Consume unhealthy food, such as whatever’s fast or most accessible
- Emotionally eat
- Exercise less
- Sleep less
What’s the reason behind this behavioral change?
When cortisol levels rise, weight gain follows. That’s because stressed-out bodies release cortisol and adrenaline, which causes glucose—a source of energy in the body—to get released into the bloodstream. What your body is doing with glucose is equipping you to fight, escape, or survive a risky situation.
This is known as your fight-or-flight response.
Another cause for weight gain is the natural urge for sugar. Because glucose is an energy source, the body craves that quick energy known as sugar. But with no ‘fight’ to be had, the body stores that sugar in the body—which takes the form of abdominal fat.
Cortisol also slows down metabolism, making it hard to lose weight, too.
Luckily, there are some tried-and-true ways to combat both stress and, therefore, weight gain. While stress may make you feel powerless, you have more control over it than you may realize. With the implementation of specific good habits (such as healthy eating), you may be able to feel more serene—and lose weight in the process.
Ways to Combat Stress
The first order of business is addressing stress. Combatting symptoms at their origin—in this case, stress—provides the opportunity to heal, grow, and maybe even fight effects such as depression, anxiety, anger, and even weight gain.
Battling stress might feel challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small, build habits, and slowly add in a way that supports your mental, physical, and emotional health. Avoid setting lofty goals—rather, focus on attainable tasks first and build from there.
Some fantastic ways to reduce stress include:
- Choosing healthier food options when eating for comfort—avoiding an excessive intake of carbs, fats, and processed sugar
- Limiting or eliminating bad habits such as alcohol use, smoking cigarettes, exorbitant screentime, etc.
- Making physical activity (of any kind) a priority in your day/week
- Also, making fun activities a priority, such as taking walks, listening to music (preferably at loud volumes), cuddling your dogs, painting a blank canvas, taking a nap—you name it!
- Finding and keeping a consistent sleep schedule
- Limiting your caffeine intake, especially in the late afternoon and early evening
- Calling your mom, best friend, sibling, or someone else for comforting conversation
- Focusing on your breathing or trying breathing exercises
These are all actionable tips. Some may apply to your life while others don’t, but the gist is the same either way.
Ask yourself what habits might be hindering your progress or bringing you down, and learn what’s causing your stress. Then, find positive, engaging, inspiring, and sustainable ways to make yourself happy.
Ways to Combat Weight Gain
There are two main components to taking the weight off and then keeping the weight off:
One of the links between stress and weight gain is that the stressed individual tends to try fad diets. Unfortunately, while these trending diets tend to work in the short-term, they hardly ever have longevity. They often consist of eliminating essential food groups in the diet, ‘detoxing’ through juices or cleanses, and may even cause harm.
The key is patience. Attain a slow and steady loss that’s also sustainable. Consistency is also important. Develop an eating style that supports you and can last a lifetime. If you’re losing quick pounds, the odds aren’t high you’ll keep them off. And if you try eliminating diets, you’ll have a hard time maintaining them for years to come.
Rather, focus on a healthy, well-balanced, and nutritious diet daily. If you find yourself eating out often, consider meal-prepping for a few hours one day, which gives you a week’s worth of ready-to-eat or -heat food. Also, allow yourself “cheat days” or treats every once in a while, because fully abstaining fosters the craving, leading to binging.
Deal With Stress in a Way That Supports Your Well-Being
If you’ve read this far, you’re already taking great strides to combat stress in your life. One of the smallest first steps, researching causation and learning ways to heal, proves to be one of the most significant.
You’ve already put in work. Now you just have to keep doing it. Why?
Because losing weight is only one advantage to beating stress. Other benefits include more focus, a more positive outlook on life, better sleep, and so much more! If you’re ready to get your life back, we guarantee it’s ready for you to take it back.
At Ingredia, we believe in a happy, healthy life. That’s why our mission is to improve the well-being of anyone in our reach. With dairy-based bioactive ingredients, we hope to offer positive effects that are impactful and life-changing. Click here to read more about our illness-fighting, stress-relieving, natural products.