Posted on 12/07/2015 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By: Dr. Lisa Metzgar,
Most of us are in a chronic state of stress – getting the kids to school on time, paying the bills and meeting deadlines at work. What makes the holiday season so much worse are the get-togethers with extended family – even though we love them – and there are so many sweets and comfort foods readily available.
We all know stress is bad for your health, but how exactly does stress make you gain weight? Well, the body reacts to stress by creating hormones like cortisol and adrenaline preparing our bodies for a “fight” or “flight” reaction to survive.(1) After the reaction, our bodies are designed to replenish the glucose that was expended during the fight or flight response. When survival means actual physical activity – running from your attacker (flight) or taking the offensive (fight) – it is beneficial that our bodies replenish. However, most of our everyday stress is not due to real physical danger. It is due to internal stress where there is no real “flight” or “fight”, but our bodies still feel the need to replenish energy.
Our primary source of energy is sugar so guess what…that’s what we start to crave more and more. So what happens is that stress makes us crave sweets even without the physical response, which leads to weight gain. This means we stress, stress, stress and eat, eat, eat with no activity to combat the eating. Also, cortisol hormones the body creates when stressed works to store more belly fat…so therefore more weight is put on in the middle.
How can we mitigate the affects of stress on our health and our weight? Reducing stress isn’t always an option but there are things we can do to help reduce its affects. Here are some simple ideas to help you have a healthier holiday season.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed, try removing yourself from the situation for a few minutes.
- Take a walk, movement does wonders for your frame of mind.
- Breathe! Try taking three deep breaths into your belly when you feel any kind of anxiety and notice how your energy calms down.
- Eat more whole foods and take well-researched supplements shown to support the body and immune system.
- Get a regular massage. Massage releases endorphins which help calm the nervous system and helps counteract the harmful effects of stress hormones. Massage can improve immune system functions, improve digestion, and reduce cortisol.(2) I have incorporated massage into my nutrition practice for 20 years because it has so many positive effects on the body and mind.
Stress can overtake your life if you let it. There are simple things you can do to give your body the support it needs to cope in today’s world. Take the time to incorporate a few of these ideas and your body and mind will thank you.