Why Stress Causes Obesity

If you’ve watched news segments talking about how dangerous stress can be, you may be hearing the reporter’s voice dubbed over a restaurant scene where people are eating. There’s a good reason for that. Most of us reach for comfort foods when we’re dealing with stressful situations. Most of those are high in calories, fat, sodium and cholesterol, leading to weight gain.

Is that the only thing stress does to cause obesity? No, there are other aspects of it. One is produced by our body and the other is related to lack of sleep. How could these cause us to gain weight?

Cortisol is a hormone produced as part of the “fight or flight” reaction. People under constant stress have a much higher amount of it circulating the body, and one of the side effects of it is an increase of abdominal fat. Getting the hormone back down to normal is required to help lose it. One thing to be aware of, we do need some cortisol in our bodies as the lack can lead to a serious medical condition.

Insomnia has a tendency to follow along with this condition. Lack of proper sleep can cause heart disease and…obesity. The studies performed have not yet determined why this is true, but many studies were performed and they all indicated a relationship. Age is not a factor, some of these studies were done on children as young as two years old.

Understanding the problem gets us half way to a solution. There are several things you can do about it, both in stress reduction and in the weight category. While you may ultimately need a doctor to help, many of these things can be done at home.

Comfort Foods: I have two suggestions here. One, find another means of getting comforted. Set aside some time for a soothing tea rather than tucking into the mac and cheese. Check out a new book at the library. Find something that is not food related (well tea is kind of close…) as a means of reducing the levels. Second, find healthy comfort foods. Substitute fat free frozen yogurt for the triple chocolate fudge crunch ice cream. There are a lot of ways to do both ideas.

Exercise: It doesn’t matter where you do it, but get moving. A piece of gym equipment at home is just as useful as one found in a gym. However, getting away from the area causing the problem is not a bad idea. You might want to go for a walk or a hike. This will help you clear your mind and it should release endorphins. That’s called the runner’s high, but you don’t have to run to feel it.

Herbal Remedies: Stress relief may be found in both aromatherapy and herbal teas. Lavender and chamomile are good choices, both as tea and in aromatherapy. Jasmine and passionflower are also good choices. These can be mixed or used individually. Insomnia may be helped by skullcap and/or valerian, though be aware that valerian smells horrible.

Your Doctor: Both stress and weight control may require some assistance from your doctor. If the above remedies don’t help enough, a visit is a good idea. Medications can help bring stress down to controllable levels. Finding an appropriate exercise program may also be done with the doctor’s help.

Both obesity and stress are serious medical issues and you should pay attention to them in order to prevent future problems. With a little help and some hard work, you can live a healthier, less stressful life.