Keep Stress Out of Medical Weight Loss
Stress is something we all have to deal with, but it can also be closely tied to weight gain. Because stress leads to biological responses that increase our appetite and contribute to fat storage, learning how to respond proactively to stress can be a valuable step during your medical weight loss program.
Stress and Weight Gain: The Connection
When we’re stressed out, our bodies release hormones that have two effects. First, they give us the strength we need to fight or flee from our stressors, helping us survive serious threats. Second, they drive us to eat to recover the nutrient stores we expend by fighting or fleeing.
However, today’s typical stressors don’t actually require us to fight or flee from anything. These hormonal survival responses were important when our ancestors were threatened by predators, but your body responds in the same way to stress from a past-due bill, upcoming business proposal or any other stressor that doesn’t actually result in serious calorie expenditure.
In other words, when you’re stressed by everyday events, your body responds by increasing your appetite to get back the energy it thinks you’re using to defend yourself, even if you’re just sitting in your living room. This can lead to an increase in appetite, as well as signals that tell the body to store abdominal fat. It also makes us crave carbohydrates, which our muscles use for fuel in a fight or flight response.
How to Stress Less
Because stress can induce hunger and carbohydrate cravings, many people respond to stress by eating. However, this is not an inevitable response—it’s merely a learned behavior that gets encouraged by our hormones. You can prevent yourself from overeating due to stress by dealing with your stressors in a more productive way, like:
- Exercising. An enjoyable, physically-engaging activity can help you reduce stress hormones, as well as provide a number of other benefits to your body, mind and mood.
- Relaxing. Like exercise, yoga, deep breathing, meditation and other calming activities can fight back against the chemical response induced by stress. Anything that helps you relax can help, like devoting time to one of your hobbies or reading a good book.
- Talking it out. Sharing what you’re going through can help you feel better about any stressful situation. Try calling a close friend or relative to talk through your feelings.
We can never rid ourselves completely of stress, but we can take steps to break the connection between stress and weight gain. During your medical weight loss program, start taking more steps to deal with your stress without giving in to the urge to eat.