This is one of those weeks. You know the ones… everything hits at once. The things you knew were coming and the things you never expected. Hassles and headaches. Demands on your time and on your emotions. Draining. STRESS with a capitol S-T-R-E-S-S.
And stress is closely linked with weight gain! Just one more thing I don’t need to worry about right now!
There seem to be two major reasons behind stress leading to weight gain: the actual science and the emotional eating. Let’s talk science first; despite it being my least favorite subject in school, it is simpler for me to understand than the emotional stuff.
When you are stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode and releases certain hormones, including cortisol. It doesn’t matter if you are stressed because you are running for your life or because of a frustrating job; the impact on your body is the same. I will cut through the scientific mumbo jumbo straight to the bottom-line… cortisol can slow your metabolism and can impact where you store fat… hello belly!
And for many of us, our reaction to stress is to eat. This might be because cortisol actually increases the appetite and is known to cause us to crave certain things. But I think for many of us it is a pure emotional reaction. Did we learn as a children to equate food with comfort? Skinned knee, have a cookie. Broken toy, have some cake. Shot in your arm, have a lollipop. Maybe we eat when stressed because food takes our mind off things. How much nicer to think about chocolate and potato chips than sick family members or idiot bosses. In the past I have sometimes eaten the junk first, then had an ‘aha moment’ as I realized afterwards that it was because of stress! But usually it was an immediate cause and effect: stress to food. And never healthy food.
Of course there are some people who actually find the opposite effect – they lose their appetite when stressed. That is so not me!
But as stressed as I have been this week, I have controlled my eating every day. I walked right pass sweet potato fries, cheesecake, and bagels yesterday with only a quick regretful glance. I packed cheese and colored peppers when I knew I would be out all day. I got home hungry at dinnertime and went straight for the green beans (I called ahead to have DH preheat the oven), protein and whole grains. And maybe as a result, I felt just a little less stressed since I didn’t have to add guilt over eating things I knew I shouldn’t.
The funny thing about my past life filled with emotional eating… it usually made me feel worse! Physically and emotionally. That made me more stressed and depressed and triggered more eating. And so went the viscous cycle. But this week, filled with headaches and heartbreak and emotions and turmoil, has shown me that I am stronger than the stress! I am stronger than the stress:) Progress.