The Link Between Stress and Weight Gain

We usually point to a high-fat diet with a scarcity of fruits and vegetables and a sedentary lifestyle as the major culprits in weight gain. However, sometimes it’s about more than simple calorie intake and energy output.

As your body’s messaging center, your hormonal system determines your metabolism’s efficiency, as does the organ that produces your metabolic hormones, the thyroid. If your hormones become imbalanced or your thyroid malfunctions, weight gain (or loss) can occur. 

But did you know that other lifestyle factors impact your weight, too, and one of the most significant ones is stress? Stress is a hard thing to pin down and define concretely, but the problems that stem from a high-stress life lead to everything from heart disease to depression and anxiety.

Dr. Steven Foley and Dr. Jacob Holdren view your health through an overarching, holistic lens and provide innovative treatments for stress-related illnesses. This means that they don’t just treat your symptoms, they delve deeper into the underlying causes of your health problems. 

Stress has many sources

Most people can easily identify sources of stress in their lives. They typically include:

One source of stress that’s been unprecedented and unrelenting for many this past year has been the historic COVID-19 pandemic. It has upended lives, no matter who you are. 

The American Psychological Association (APA) conducts an annual stress survey, and 2020’s results differed in one major way: The pandemic amplified the stress we all experience significantly, and its effects are real. 

Can stress and weight gain really be related?

Absolutely. Our adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol that amps up when we feel the “fight or flight” instinct. 

This primal reaction originated millions of years ago when, at any given moment, conflicts rarely had inconsequential outcomes. More often than not, a life was at stake as people became prey for an animal or engaged in some other life-or-death struggle. They needed to make the critical decision: Do I stay and engage in battle or is it better to flee?

While we may not fight for our lives on a daily basis anymore, we still deal with a lot of stress and have the cortisol levels to prove it. Cortisol happens to be a powerful appetite stimulant, so there’s real truth to the term “comfort food.” If your cortisol levels are elevated most of the time, it’s easy to see how weight gain can occur. Additionally, the calories that you ingest while stressed tend to become fat that’s stored more in your midsection, an unhealthy location for excess pounds. 

In fact, a 2015 study published in the weekly journal Biological Psychiatry showed that, among the group of female participants, cortisol not only slowed their metabolisms, but elevated their insulin levels. 

Though we mentioned a higher risk of heart disease mental health problems that accompany weight gain, there’s also joint pain, reproductive problems, and an increased diabetes risk, among other problems, that result from weight gain. 

How do I address stress-related weight gain in the best ways?

In order to lose weight safely and successfully, it takes more than a two-week grapefruit diet or a lose-all-carbs regimen. WIth fad diets, weight loss is often temporary, and you tend to gain it all back ultimately, and then some.

The Regenerative Health & Wellness Medical Center offers medically supervised weight loss services, which make all the difference, for many, between failure and long-term success. 

Dr. Foley not only creates a customized eating plan for you, he reviews your overall lifestyle habits to see what impact they have on your weight. He researches the role your family health history may have on how you eat and retain weight today, and talks to you about your exercise habits, whether you smoke, your hormonal balance, thyroid health, and more. 

Not surprisingly, he also focuses quite a bit on your stress levels and discusses effective stress management techniques with you, including:

There’s also no stress-busting substitute for maintaining ties with friends and family, or having a furry friend to share your life with. 

In addition to stress reduction, Dr. Foley may recommend natural supplements or prescription medications that encourage weight loss. He partners with you by providing practical education on what good nutrition is, and what it looks like when you’re trying to eat in the real world — think putting together dinner after an exhausting day at work or eating out at a restaurant. 

We’ve seen it time and time again — with this kind of support, it's nearly impossible to lose at losing! 

Call the Regenerative Health & Wellness Medical Center office that’s most convenient to you to schedule a physician-supervised weight loss consultation, or reach out to us through our website to begin your weight loss journey. 

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