How Stress Can Affect Weight Loss

Why does stress negatively affect weight loss?

If you've ever embarked on a weight management plan and found yourself plateau or the pounds just won't budge it could be because of stress. Our Nutrition Team explain why being stressed can sabotage your weight loss goals and share a couple of top tips for being a bit more mindful:

The Fight Or Flight Response
I think we can all agree that stress isn’t great for our health. Excess stress can cause havoc on our bodies; affecting our sleep, mood, digestion and so much more.

When you’re stressed your body functions differently: Our adrenal glands (the small glands on top of our kidneys) release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and this results in glucose, our primary source of energy, being released into the bloodstream. Your body does this to give you a boost of energy so you can literally ‘fight or flight’.

The ‘fight or flight’ mode is our body’s acute stress response, it’s your body reaction to a perceived threat: For example, say you found yourself in a situation where you’re running from a tiger (a bit far fetched we know) your body will trigger this response, providing you with a burst of energy to deal with the situation. However, in our current lives the daily stressors mostly arise from being overworked, money worries or relationship issues. This means that if we are constantly feeling stressed, our body is then releasing cortisol and glucose. This can act to potentiate inflammation, leading to various issues, including weight gain.

Cortisol & Sugar
Levels of cortisol rise rapidly when we’re feeling stressed. Increased levels of this hormone causes your insulin levels to rise- this is the hormone our bodies release in response to the ingestion of sugar. So this hormonal response to stress causes your blood sugar to drop, and your body begins to crave sugary, fatty foods.
When we consume a lot of sugar our body tends to store it, and your body’s favourite way to do that tends to be in the form of abdominal fat. And so the vicious cycle starts; with stress, the release of cortisol and glucose, craving more sugar, eating more sugar and finally gaining weight.

So, what can you do to combat this?

Breathing before you eat:
Better breathing can help improve digestion. Taking a couple of deep breaths before eating can help to promote the release of our relaxing neurotransmitters. Breathing before ingesting food can support lowering our cortisol levels and by doing this help your body to properly absorb and digest the nutrients from our food.

Get moving after your meal:
Walking is incredibly important when it comes to weight loss and managing stress. We have all had the feeling of our body feeling relaxed when in nature, or having a short walk in the fresh air. After returning from the walk we can sometimes have a new outlook, a calmer perspective and possibly new, fresh ideas.

Studies have shown that taking a brisk walk after meals can help to support blood sugar balance. Even a 5 minute walk has been shown to be beneficial for us, to get your blood pumping and kick start your metabolism. It can also serve as a little time to unwind, clear your head, connect with nature. You can even choose to do this with a friend. All of these things contribute to lowering our stress response, and damping the cortisol hormone.

Choose fats wisely:
Fat is incredibly important when it comes to feeling satisfied. It also helps us absorb our fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K. However, overdoing it on the healthy fats can hinder weight loss. Use the rule of sticking to one fat component per meal. For example, if you are having a salad for lunch choose between either avocado or nuts. Or dress or salad with lemon and balsamic vinegar, rather than olive oil.