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The Correlation Between Stress And Weight Gain

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It’s common for you to encounter daily stressors but unprecedentedly high-stress levels can wreak havoc on your performance and overall quality of life.

A recent survey found that three in five (60%) employees in Canada experience workplace stress, mainly attributed to heavy workloads, job insecurity, and lack of support from employers. While corporate wellness initiatives exist to address such cases, many still experience stress outside the workplace in terms of financial obligations, personal relations, and familial responsibilities.

Beyond being a mental health concern, chronic stress can also lead to physical health problems, including unwanted weight gain. So, with that in mind, here’s a closer look at the mind-body connection between stress and body weight, followed by tips on managing both for holistic health and wellness.

The connection between stress and weight gain

When you’re constantly responding to internal and external stressors, your body secretes a hormone called cortisol. An article published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine notes that elevated cortisol levels due to prolonged stress can lead to overweight and obesity if left unmanaged.

This relationship can be explained by how cortisol overproduction negatively affects metabolism and causes belly fat. Moreover, excess cortisol promotes cravings for sugary and fatty foods, which are otherwise high in calories and can contribute to weight gain. Abnormally high cortisol levels can also disrupt sleep and lead to unintentional weight gain, as a lack of sleep can stimulate the hunger hormone ghrelin and make it more likely for you to overeat.

Since stress-induced weight gain, such as belly fat, can be challenging to lose and keep off, this can exacerbate stress and create a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating patterns. Fortunately, there are many effective ways to reduce stress and lose weight at the same time, some of which are discussed below.

Effective approaches for stress and weight management

Join weight loss workshops

Embarking on a weight loss journey on your own can be stressful in itself, as you have to transform your diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle for positive results. However, by searching for “weight loss workshops near me” online, you can find in-person and virtual groups offering practical and emotional support throughout your journey. You can find an expert coach with whom you can chat and get private weigh-ins and a like-minded community who can share their weight loss experiences and keep you accountable for your health and fitness goals.

Practice mindful eating

As previously mentioned, introducing dietary changes to your daily routine can be a stressful part of losing weight since you have to pay closer attention to nutritional value and portion sizes. But a way to break free from restrictive dieting is to practice mindful eating. Instead of merely focusing on calorie counting, centering mindfulness by eating slowly, savouring each bite, and removing distractions from your environment can help reduce stress while also ensuring you maintain a healthy, satisfying diet.

Destress through mindfulness and meditation

Exercise is typically recommended as complementary to a balanced diet for weight loss. But instead of confining your exercise routine to cardio, aerobics, and resistance training, it’s best to incorporate mindfulness-based methods into your overall regimen to not just burn calories but to also relax and destress. Research from the journal PLOS One found that mindfulness training such as deep breathing and meditation can be linked to successful weight loss and maintenance over a six-month period. Thus, you can introduce mindfulness into your daily exercise by warming up and cooling down via yoga, breathing exercises, and other meditative practices.

Final Thoughts

In essence, the mind-body connection reveals that stress can contribute to weight gain through hormonal imbalance and unhealthy lifestyle choices. But the good news is that you can combine stress management and weight loss approaches to ensure you attain a healthy weight and sustain it in the long term. Feel free to check out the resources here at The Mindful Steward to guide you in breaking the cycle of stress and unhealthy habits in your daily life.

About the author
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Sean Grabowski

A passionate ambassador, educator and student of mindfulness and meditation. Advocate for unique experiences and life long learning.

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