You’re following the guidelines of your nutritionist and you’re working out 3 times a week with your personal trainer and you’re still not losing any weight- or worse- you’re still gaining weight. This is an all too common scenario for many adults. After shelling out hundreds of dollars and doing what you thought were all the right things, you inevitably chalk your failure up to getting old or to poor genetics.
While diet and exercise are key factors to maintaining a healthy weight, they are not the only factors. Stress has a tremendous impact on our body, effecting everything from sleep and heart rate to digestion and weight gain. The body releases the hormone cortisol in response to stress. These stress hormones cause us to store fat, especially in the belly. Now, most of us are walking around with some level of stress basically all day, which makes losing fat an uphill battle. To make things worse, elevated cortisol is also linked to depression, food addiction and sugar cravings. So, now your body is primed to store fat and you are craving all the wrong foods.
Stress: The Good And The Bad
Stress is a normal and natural part of life. Our bodies are equipped to experience and adapt to it. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as positive stress that keeps us alert and motivated. This is called eustress. When we experience higher levels or more prolonged periods of stress, this becomes distress, which can have a negative impact on the body.
Your job, your relationships, your exercise, and your thoughts can all affect your stress levels. When our mind sees something as worrisome or dangerous, it triggers our sympathetic nervous system to react. The greater the perceived danger, the stronger the reaction. Over-activating our sympathetic nervous system too frequently can cause long term physical and psychological problems. Studies have shown that distress can lead to higher blood pressure, headaches, poor digestion and trouble sleeping. Well over 50% of all visits to the doctor are for stress related ailments and complaints.
How Does Stress Affect The Body?
When the body is under stress, muscles will instinctually tense up as a way of guarding against injury or pain. When muscles are under prolonged periods of tension, it can lead to painful conditions such as tension headaches or migraines as well as neck and shoulder pain.
Stress can cause irregular, often fast-paced breathing. This can cause the onset of an asthma attack or lead to hyperventilation and panic attacks. Deep breathing techniques can help alleviate this.
Elevated levels of stress cause an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle. Chronic stress or repeated acute stress can also lead to inflammation in the circulatory system, which is linked to heart attacks, as well as an increase in blood pressure.
Stress has a great impact on digestion and the nutrients your intestine can absorb. This can lead to upset stomach as well as nutritional deficiencies. It can also impact how quickly food moves through your body, leading to either constipation or diarrhea.
Stay Calm, Stay Healthy
How are you reacting to stressors in your day-to-day living? Imagine the below scenarios and the level of stress that each brings to you. You may be surprised by what you find.
- Losing your keys
- Being stuck in rush hour traffic
- Waiting in a long, slow checkout line
- Having an argument with a spouse or loved one
- Computer glitches mid-project at work
Could you perhaps adjust your reactions to reduce the impact stress has on you?