Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?
How to keep the world's woes from weighing you down
Mind Over Matter continued...
In fact, it may be our bodies' initial response to rising levels of cortisol
that teaches us there is comfort in sugary or starchy foods.
"During the first couple of days following a stressful event, cortisol
is giving you a clue to eat high-carbohydrate foods," Perfetti tells WebMD.
"Once you comply, you quickly learn a behavioral response that you can feel
almost destined to repeat anytime you feel stressed."
Now for the good news: Whether your urge to eat is driven by hormones or
habits or a combination of both, research shows there are ways to interrupt the
cycle, break the stress and stop the weight gain.
Here's what the experts recommend:
1. Exercise. This is the best stress-buster -- and also happens to be
good for you in lots of other ways. "It not only burns calories, when you
move your body, even with a simple activity such as walking, you begin to
produce a cascade of biochemicals, at least some of which counter the negative
effects of stress hormones -- as well as control insulin and sugar levels,"
At the same time, Ginsburg notes that exercising too hard for too long can
raise cortisol levels and actually increase stress. The answer, he says is to
choose an activity you really enjoy doing -- be it an aerobic sport like
running or a calmer activity such as Pilates -- and then keep workouts to a
length that doesn't exhaust you (this could be as little as 20 minutes a day,
three to five days a week).
2. Eat a balanced diet -- and never skip a meal. "Eat breakfast
-- and try to consume six small rather than three huge meals a day, with foods
from all the food groups," Ginsberg tells WebMD. This helps keep blood
sugar levels steady, which in turn put a damper on insulin production and
eventually reduce cortisol levels -- all helping to control appetite and
3. Don't lose sleep, over your weight problems or your stress -- When
we don't get enough rest, cortisol levels rise, making us feel hungry and less
satisfied with the food we do eat, Ginsberg says.