Is too much stress making you gain weight? Expert clears the air

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On your way to managing the hustle and bustle of life, people get stressed to the point that it starts affecting their mental and physical health. Did you know that too much stress can also lead to obesity? These two are highly prevalent problems that affect millions of people across the world, and what makes it worse is that they are also two problems that have a strong association with each other.

You must have heard that too much stress can take a toll on your health, but it can also contribute to the sudden weight that you may have noticed around the belly. To understand more about the link between weight loss and stress, Health Shots asked Dr Shobha Subramanian-Itolikar, Consultant-Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai.

The link between stress and obesity

Stress is a prevalent problem in today’s world with several people succumbing to it on a daily basis. It wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t lead to health problems, which brings us to the topic of discussion – obesity. Dr Itolikar explains, “In today’s fast-paced and competitive world, stress is encountered by all age groups, be it peer pressure among children, economic and societal pressure among middle-aged or health issues faced by the elderly. Obesity further adds to the stress by virtue of being a social stigma. Hence, we need to understand how to combat this problem and keep the deathly duo at bay.”

Also Read: Gearing up for a new week? Beat workplace stress with these tips

Does stress lead to weight gain? Image courtesy: Shutterstock

So, how does stress lead to obesity?

Not one, but stress can lead to obesity in several ways. The expert shares three ways in which stress affects.

1. Impaired behavioural response

Stress affects our cognitive (processing) ability and self-regulatory behaviour. This forms the basis of stress eating, binge eating, and other factors that lead to obesity, adds Dr Itolikar.

2. Stress hormone

The fight-or-flight hormone (cortisol) wreaks havoc in our body by opposing the action of the body’s glucose-lowering hormone known as insulin. This leads to high blood sugar levels, low cellular glucose levels, and increased appetite, all of which contribute to obesity.

3. Fat deposition

Cortisol mobilises fats from storage sites and relocates them around organs and visceral sites like the abdomen and thighs leading to obesity, explains the expert.

Does stress lead to weight gain? Image Courtesy: Freepik

How to avoid stress and reduce the chances of obesity?

Here is what the expert suggests you can do to make sure that stress isn’t leading to problems you don’t want in your life:

1. Stress management

  • Ensure good and adequate sleep
  • Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation
  • Cardio and resistance training
  • Wherever appropriate, expert advice in the form of psychological counselling
  • Develop a hobby like singing, music, gardening, or painting, and nurture it

2. Make dietary changes

  • Follow low carbohydrate and low-fat diet
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats
  • Consume a fibre-rich diet which gives you antioxidants and phytonutrients
  • Ensure adequate hydration because thirst is often confused with hunger

Also Read: Fighting obesity? Let’s bust some myths around food and weight loss

3. Behavioural modification especially while eating

  • Watch your speed of eating
  • Control the portion or amount of meals
  • Load your plate with fibres and proteins
  • Develop coping mechanisms when stressed to avoid over-eating or binge-eating
  • Do not give in to sugar cravings
  • Stress-eaters should consume small, frequent healthy meals and snacks

These simple tips will help you have a healthy body with a healthy mind.

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