Don't Stress, You'll Just Put On Weight

by Menaka Warrier
Stressed about your weight? Do you know that going mental over the number on the scale could just make you fatter? And not just that, stress in general can have adverse effects on your body and wellbeing, so don't add the pressure to lose weight to the list of the numerous other things you worry about.

Adam Eckhart, co-founder Critical MASS Gym and adjunct professor Global Fitness and Wellness at Kean University says that apart from the balance between diet and workout, it is also important to maintain a balance between stress and recovery. “Your body responds to stress by triggering the sympathetic nervous system or the so-called 'fight/flight/freeze mechanism',” he says. The sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline and cortisol, which raises blood sugar levels, increases your heart rate and affects your concentration. This works against weight loss as it redirects your energy to overcome whatever it is that you're stressed about. 

The Kinds Of Stress That Trigger Weight Gain Or Plateauing 
  • Lack Of Sleep: Many studies have shown that those who are sleep deprived eat more throughout the day,” says Adam Eckhart. Thus, even if you were following your diet and exercise routine perfectly, lack of sleep would ruin it by putting your body in stress alert.
  • OverTraining: Yes, there is such a thing. Exercise stresses your body out, and rightly so; but, overtraining distresses your body and that's not good. Pushing too hard sends your body into panic mode, and it therefore tries to conserve all the energy it has, so that it can power through the gruelling workout you are putting it through. Make note that the body conserves energy by holding on to fat and not letting it go. Counterproductive, isn't it? “Exercise up to four days per week,” says Eckhart, “The higher the intensity, the lower the duration of the exercise should be and vice versa.” 
  • Eating Too Little: If you’ve been steadily increasing your workout reps, it’s equally important to amp up your food intake to match the output and energy expended. The answer to breaking your weight-loss plateau is not to eat less, but to maintain the right balance by eating food which fuels your workout without adding calories from unhealthy sources. “Higher protein, fewer calories might be needed. But in other cases, higher calories are needed to gain muscle when your focus is strength training” says Lisa Hugh, a registered dietitian.
  • Hormonal Imbalance: If the weight-loss plateau lasts longer than three to six months despite a stringent workout routine and healthy diet, then it is time to meet a doctor. “Your doctor can have your blood work checked to lookout for hormonal imbalances such as low thyroid, high cortisol levels, PCOS, or insulin resistance, all of which may be stressing your body out, in turn leading to weight gain” says Del Rosso.

In the end, remember that the struggle to lose weight might bring with it a degree of moodiness and stress, but don't fall into a cyclical spiral where you're making poor food choices and bad decisions about your health. Recognizing your triggers can help you avoid this sand trap and improve your relationship with food too. It's not always your diet that is to blame for weight gain so don't stress, things will get better in time.

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