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Is stress keeping you fat?

Stress challenges us all from time to time but for some people, coping with high stress levels is a daily battle and can have a negative impact on how you feel, on your performance and your long term health. So learning to cope with stress can be a vital tool in your box.

We need good stress to give us energy and motivation to complete certain tasks, but bad stress is the one we need to avoid. When your stress levels are consistently high, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone gives us a ‘fight or flight’ response, so in times of emergency we have a rush of energy to either fight a tiger or run away from it. But we aren’t faced with tigers anymore, so we don't have the opportunity to use that cortisol. Instead, that tiger now comes in the form of annoying bosses, juggling too many balls, work deadlines and traffic jams.

There are several problems with high levels of cortisol. One is the demand which it puts on your adrenal glands to constantly secrete this hormone. This is hard work for your body and leads to adrenal fatigue - that feeling where you’re exhausted and like a zombie all day long. Another problem is the effect that cortisol has on weight gain. It encourages your body to store fat around your abdominal area, so stressed individuals will often struggle to lose that unwanted belly fat.

Another way in which stress can impact weight gain is eating when you’re feeling stressed out. Eating as a coping mechanism for stress is a common habit but it can be managed through become more mindful and creating new habits. When was the last time that stress eating truly solved your problems? Probably never, lets be honest. So when you find yourself reaching for a packet of crunchy crisps to get through your stress ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I eating?

  • Am I genuinely hungry?

  • Am I just trying to temporarily distract myself from the stress?

  • Is this going to help me reach my goals?

Top tips for managing stress eating…

  • Do a workout instead and sweat out the problems. Exercise is incredible for managing stress levels and increasing happy hormones.

  • Try slow deep breathing in times of stress (3 secs in, 6 secs out).

  • Get out for a walk.

  • Make yourself a nice calming cup of herbal tea.

  • Distract yourself by phoning someone who makes you feel relaxed and happy.

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