Turn Stress into a Weight Loss Opportunity

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When it comes to losing weight and getting fit, you will always hear people talk about how important diet and exercise are in order to accomplish this. What you don’t hear much about is the other factors that are just as important that can actually hinder your fitness goals if ignored and overlooked, stress being one of them.

Recent studies by Luba Sominsky and Sarah J. Spencer at the School of Health Sciences and Health Innovations Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia suggest that stress can cause or contribute to obesity and other eating-related disorders. Their research shows how stress impacts the body depending on whether it is acute (immediate) or chronic (long term). Acute stress can lead to temporary loss of appetite, where chronic stress can increase it. Our body’s neuroendocrine system or brain-to-body connection controls this. It does this by activating a series of hormones whenever we feel threatened (or stressed in this case). According to Dr. Elissa Epel, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco, these hormones give us the biochemical strength we need to fight or flee our stressors.

The hormones released include adrenalin – which gives us instant energy, corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH), and Cortisol. Now while the effects of high levels of adrenalin and CRH don’t usually last long, they do decrease appetite at first. However, cortisol works differently by helping us replenish our body after the stress has passed and lasts a lot longer than the other two. It does this by increasing your appetite and ultimately driving you to eat more. This would work great if our stress was coming in the form of physical danger because your body would expend energy for the need to “fight or flee” and then replenish it. Unfortunately, in today’s world our response to stress is to sit and stew in frustration and anger, without expending any energy we normally would have if we were physically fighting our way out of stress or danger.

So remember, whenever you feel stressed and overwhelmed, don’t pick up something to eat or snack on. Get up and move. Go to the gym to work out or go for a nice long run, but make sure whatever you do you’re using energy and not conserving it.

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