In today's fast paced society, stress plays a leading role in many of our lives. Some of us react to stress by eating a salty snack or binge-watching Netflix with a pint of ice cream. Is it these "stress eating" habits that are to blame for weight gain or is there more to the story?
While there's no doubt a balanced diet and exercise are the duo that help you maintain a healthy weight, there is another factor to consider: stress. Many studies have explored the relationship between stress and weight gain.
Cortisol is a hormone that plays an important role in our body’s natural "fight or flight" response. Cortisol is crucial in regulating the body's natural response to acute stress. Yet, when we are under chronic stress, cortisol levels can rise to an unhealthy level and wreak havoc on our bodies. Chronically high cortisol levels are known to raise blood sugars, tax the immune system, raise blood pressure and promote storage of fat around the midsection. When cortisol is elevated, our body uses protein to make glucose for energy; when this energy is not used it is then stored as fat. But when we are psychologically stressed, not physically stressed, we are not using this energy and it is instead stored as fat.
This hormonal imbalance can be managed through coping with stress in a healthy way. There are many ways to manage stress and it is important to find a technique that you can work into your daily routine. Whether it is meditation, yoga, exercise, acupuncture, reading or listening to music, de-stressing along with diet and exercise is imperative to optimal health. So instead of reaching for those chips or that pint of ice cream, take a long deep breath and toast your health.
Written by: Laura Dutra, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Today's Dietitian