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Why Stress Is the Major Set Back to Weight Loss

Updated on June 29, 2015

We are living in the 21st century where stresses forms the order of the day. Many a times, we are subject to a number of stressful situations. For instance your boss is always on your neck over low production; you have a sick parent back at home or your child no longer wants to go to school and has quit school insisting he wants to establish himself a career in music. These are just but a few scenarios we experience.
How does stress affect weight loss and weight gain?
Let's have a look.
Most people have openly admitted that stress causes then to diverge from the healthy eating habits. In a stressful situation we lack the adequate time to adequately plan a healthy diet causing us to prepare a meal with a sole intention of feeling our emotional needs or in most occurrences find ourselves grabbing fast foods. Generally it is unhealthy to live a stressed-out life, as it compromises the functioning of our body hormones and also compromise our healthy eating habits.

Weight gain due to stress is as a result of hormonal imbalances and checks. Studies have indicated that such hormonal checks and imbalances promotes weight gain in an individual. Cortisol hormone is a hormone produced in high amounts during stress. This hormone secreted by adrenal glands plays a key role in fat and carbohydrates metabolism in the body. It generally stimulates the metabolism of these two biomolecules for quick energy release. It also plays a vital role in activation of insulin release thus maintenance of blood sugar.

The secretion of cortisol hormone in high concentrations, has a negative effect on the body in that it activates high rate of carbohydrates and fat metabolism coupled with high level of insulin release. The end result of this process is high appetite due to low blood sugar level, which causes the feeling of hunger to set in. The excessive intake of food due to increased appetite results to excess glucose in the cells, which is converted to fats and stored in the abdominal area leading to weight gain. Cortisol is therefore termed as stress hormone because it is secreted in excess during physical and psychological stress.
Reasoning at a layman point of view, high level of cortisol in the blood should promote weight loss due to its fat burning ability. This is not the case, because cortisol stays in the system for a longer period of time despite the termination of stress. This means that the average fats burn is less than the average fats gained due to overeating resulting to weight gain.


Weight gain due to stress can also arise from what is described as the "fight or flee" effect, where instead of fighting back, most of us resolve to seating and stewing due to frustrations and danger. More often than not, eating is our only consolation to stress and is considered as the stress relieving activity for in this case. According to Shawn Talbott a University of Utah Associate Professor in the department of Nutrition, our neuro-endocrine system response mechanism to stress is usually low prompting it to continually respond to signals to replenish the nutritional stores thus making us feel hungry and eat more.

Stress causes us to shy away from exercises that would burn down excess calories, but we still continue feeding on a lot of carbohydrates and fats. The end result is always weight gain due to accumulation of fats.
Under stress the brain chemistry is activated in such a manner that it generates and send a signal for sugary and carbohydrate intake. During the first stressful days of your life, a signal is usually generated by the brain to increase carbohydrates intake and this can be a behavioral response that you will always repeat every moment you under stress. Therefore, when you are always stressed the signal persists for a long period leading to weight gain.
Studies show that stress stimulates the release of Adrenalin hormone in the blood. Adrenalin hormone also known as the fright and flight hormone causes instant fat and carbohydrate burn to release energy. The hormone has a short term effect of weight loss, however the long term effect would be weight gain. Therefore subjecting your body to a short term stress can be a way of burning down some calories, however long term stress leads to excessive cortisol hormone release. The abdomen cells have a lot of the cortisol hormone receptors therefore a lot of these hormones accumulate within the belly region resulting to excessive deposit of fats at the lower abdomen in a complex biochemical process.

According to a study conducted at the University of Mexico, stress leads to loss of muscle mass, increased appetite and the increase fat storage. This implies that in as much as fats are burnt down during stress, we also increase the rate of fat synthesis replenishing the burnt fat.

Finally, when stressed we tend to fall into diet traps such as cravings. As indicated the stress hormones leads to increased appetite. Researchers have reported that the hormones not only lead to increased appetite, but they also boost our cravings for sugary staff. High sugar levels in the body stimulate the release of insulin hormone which in turn leads to active intake of glucose by the cells. Excess cellular glucose is usually converted to fats which are deposited in the adipose tissues to form fat layers.
In summary, stress leads to weight gain and has a negative effect on weight loss because it makes us shy of the healthy eating habits and confine us to overeating a lot of carbohydrates and fats as a way of relieving ourselves and this results to weight gain. It is advisable to avoid most of the diet traps that arise out of stress through reading and visiting nutritionists who can adequately advise you. Exercise during stressful situations is another efficient way to ensure you retain a healthy body because it helps you burn down excess calories.

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