Did you know that stress can promote weight gain by:

  1. If stress affects your sleep causing insomnia or unrefreshed sleep this can promote release of cortisol, the stress hormone which causes insulin resistance and weight gain.  Also poor sleep may affect other hormones such as ghrelin and leptin which affect feeding behaviors.
  2. Stress can cause depression and this type of depression is associated with elevated cortisol levels and therefore weight gain.  Depression can also be associated with binging behaviors, especially in those with eating disorders which can affect weight. Some individuals with depression are also less physically active and this affects weight.
  3. When under stress, studies show that most people indulge in more high-fat and sweet foods.  These foods typically have a higher number of calories and contribute to weight gain.  This was show after 9/11 when people reported eating more “comfort foods” and gaining weight.

What do you do about stress?  Consider doing something other than just “getting through it.”  To deal with stress try using body centered therapies such as acupuncture, massage or chiropractic.  You can take the stress vitamin – B-complex which also helps with depression. Consider the category of herbs called “adaptogens” which help your body deal with stress such as Panax or Eleuthero ginseng or Rhodiola rosea.  Take omega-3 fatty acids to help with mood. Make sure you get good sleep.  Valerian root may help with sleep.  Rather than pounding your body with intense exercise all the time, try some relaxing exercises such as yoga or swimming.  Strive for balance.  If you have an eating disorder, recognizing that your disease is a stressor on your body and so you need to support your body’s own healing ability by taking a multivitamin, B-complex, omega 3 fatty acids.  During stress make sure to avoid foods that stress out your body such as caffeine and sugar.  Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water.  Remember stress is good for your body when it motivates you to accomplish your goals but it can cause wear and tear on the body when stress is not well managed.