When you are very busy and stressed out you often don’t feel hungry at all, don’t even think about food and eating. That’s why most people tend to think that stress causes weight loss. However, it’s not really the case.

Acute stress keeps you alive

At very first, we have to differentiate a stressful day (acute stress) from a constant stressful condition (chronic stress). The first one is necessary to staying alive, the second one can be very dangerous. Stress has been always present in humans’ life so our body can deal with it to a certain level. Imagine that you want to cross the street but suddenly realize a car so you quickly jump back to the pavement. In this case, your body reacts quickly enough because all of your energy go to your muscles and brain. In such cases, for a short time, every non-essential body function ceases, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure increases, you breathe faster so the oxygen level of your blood increases  — consequently, your muscles get the maximum power. For a short time, you can be a superhero.

Chronic stress is harmful

Chronic stress is different from being a superhero. It’s actually a harmful condition and your body cannot really handle it. Maybe, 200 years from now people will get used to chronic stress as well, but for now, we have to be careful with it. The constantly fast heart beat, the high blood pressure and the extra sugar that our liver provide to our blood (and so muscles) can lead heart-diseases, hypertonia, high cholesterol and even type II diabetes for those who are at an increased risk (e.g. those who had/have family members suffering from one of these diseases). In addition, if you’re in the condition of chronic stress, you can expect some extra pounds as well which means also a risk factor of developing heart diseases.

Chronic stress boosts your hunger

Overeating is one of the most common reasons of overweight. You question how exactly overeating is a consequence of chronic stress. The answer is that when you’re almost continuously under intense pressure, your brain switches itself to “survival mode”. Just imagine: it perceives your condition as if your life was threatened all the time, consequently, as if your body required more energy in order to survive. In reality, you are not running from a hungry lion so you don’t need the extra calories. In addition to the problem of overeating, there’s one more phenomenon in connection to chronic stress and overweight that you might be familiar with: it seems that the more unhealthy a food is, the more desirable it will be in a stressful period.

Cortisol — The real enemy of your shape

Cortisol is the reason of why you won’t eat tomato and cucumber in stressful times but could die for slices of pizza, mountains of chocolate, or tons of potato chips. When cortisol  (a.k.a. “stress hormone”) rises, it causes higher insulin levels so your blood sugar drops. That’s why you’re craving foods that raise your blood sugar immediately so why you’re reaching for carbohydrate and fat when you’re stressed out.

Your “comfort foods” can be responsible for your overweight

The term “comfort food” refers to foods that ease negative psychological effects and, at the sam time, increases positive feelings by being nostalgic; by providing you with a taste and a texture of  safety. So when you feel unwell because of the high level of stress, you want eat something that send the message to your brain that you’re safe. Usually, comfort food comes from childhood experiences, so what is “comfort food” to who can change individually. In practice, there are general, national, gender-based, or generational patterns that can be identified— for example, more and more people tend to say that snacks help them when they are searching for stress relief, and more women than men tend to claim ice cream and chocolate as their “comfort foods”.

What can be done?

Nothing is more annoying when you are advised to decrease stress in your life (Oh, really? You don’t say?). It seems more reasonable to learn how to handle stress more effectively. There are quite simple techniques that help your body not to feel under intense pressure all the time. Relaxation and meditation help your mind to find peace, and yoga exercises your muscles and body to be more flexible (less spastic). Build them into your daily routine, 15 to 20 minutes relaxation a day is enough for you to feel much better, consequently, eat way less. That’s how you can preserve your body not only from serious stress-related diseases but also overweight. Live in a healthy, stressless body!