Woman holds up an apple and donut

What to do when Stress Shows

Itself on the Scale

Many of us gained some extra weight this year, and many of us may have indulged a bit more than usual. We may be attributing this to an altered diet. However, what if the unwanted pounds we accumulated during the pandemic had less to do with food and drink, and everything to do with stress?

If you are eager to lose the, “Quarantine 15,” it’s just as important to manage stress as is to manage intake. The connection between stress and weight gain is simple to understand. When stressed, we become distracted by issues and tend to choose solutions to help us feel better quickly. This might be “fun” food, alcohol, or movie marathons, just to name a few. This works…but we only feel better for a moment. Once the feel-good sensation passes, the tension remains. Quick solutions like unhealthy food, higher alcohol consumption, or lounging around ultimately lead to moodiness, inactivity, and a rising number on the scale.

If we change our perspective and our habits, we just might be able to reduce stress and start letting go of the unwanted pounds.

Stress + Cortisol = Weight Gain

Cortisol is a hormone the body releases in response to stress. Stress can be something as inconsequential as not getting the parking spot you desperately wanted or something as frightening as avoiding a head-on car collision.

Daily stressors add up over time and eventually, may lead to serious health conditions.

Cortisol dumped into the system constantly due to the daily bombardment of work demands, family concerns, depressing news, constant worry, and fear of the unknown can result in elevated levels leading to unhealthy consequences including unwanted weight gain.

Why?  The answer is simple: cortisol is a fat storage hormone.

More Cortisol = More Fat

Getting stress under control will reduce cortisol giving your body permission to let go of the fat it’s holding onto.

How? By creating new habits that signal your body to de-stress.

Here are a few ways to re-think your perspective about what is causing stress in the first place and actionable steps you can take today:

  1. Ask yourself, “What is the likelihood that whatever you are worried or deeply concerned about will come to pass?” Reflect and consider the best-case scenario. Focus on that.
  2. Engage in healthy, enjoyable, and relaxing activities. Read a book, take a walk, play the piano, meet a friend for coffee, or do a puzzle with your kids or grandkids.
  3. Move. Nothing moves stress out of the body and elevates feel-good hormones faster than a bout of exercise. Schedule a workout to follow stressful events like a rough day at work or a difficult conversation.
  4. Eat well. Nourish your body with the best possible food available.
  5. Release what is not yours to control. Let. It. Go.

I invite you explore a deeper look at stress and how you respond through an evaluation of perspective and habits. Simply shifting one habit could have a major impact on your life.

About the Writer

Kelley Rakow, Health and Lifestyle Coach

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5373497/#:~:text=However%2C%20higher%20baseline%20cortisol%2C%20chronic,reported%20stress%20promote%20weight%20gain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3602916/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7241331/

Information presented by W(h)ealth should not be relied upon to determine diet, make a medical diagnosis, or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Consult a doctor and/or medical professional before making any health changes, especially any changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition.