There are two common culprits which everyone pins the blame on when they have trouble losing weight: lack of exercise, and a terrible diet.
However, there’s another sneaky perpetrator that you’re probably not thinking of: stress.
We all deal with stress in some form or another, but when you’re stressed out all the time, it takes a tremendous toll on your ability to lose weight. Let’s explore why this is.
3 Little Known Ways Stress Causes Weight Gain
1. The Way We’re Wired
Photo courtesy JD Hancock
Our bodies have been hardwired to respond to stress in the same way since the dawn of time. In the event our ancestors were being chased by an animal or were confronted with danger of any sort, this stress response mechanism would kick in, heightening their senses and awareness so they could respond appropriately.
We call this the fight-or-flight mechanism, and it’s fueled by the “stress” hormone, cortisol.
It’s a mechanism that’s still useful even today. For example, if you find yourself being chased down a dark alleyway, your body will respond in kind to the danger. However, this becomes a major problem when we’re stressed out all the time. Chronic stress means heightened levels of cortisol, which can increase inflammation in the body. This can also lead to abdominal weight gain and an increase of visceral fat around your belly.
Remember, cortisol itself is not the enemy here. It’s actually a very important hormone because it provides a protective layer around your body’s cells to help them cope with stress. The key is to keep your stress levels in check so your cortisol levels don’t fly off the charts.
2. Sleepless Nights Can Weigh You Down
Photo courtesy Feliciano Guimaraes
I don’t know about you, but I become a zombie when I’m sleep deprived. Mornings are a struggle, and I walk round with heavy eyelids and an even heavier step.
Too much of this and that’s not the only thing that becomes heavy.
A sustained lack of adequate sleep sets off a chain reaction in your body, and one of the first places this registers is your thyroid. Specifically, it affects two very important hormones which are controlled by your thyroid: leptin and ghrelin. They’re essentially hunger hormones—ghrelin tells your brain it’s hungry; leptin tells your brain it’s full.
Sleep deprivation makes these two hormones fly out of whack. Leptin levels tend to decrease, while ghrelin tends to increase. This creates a situation in which your brain constantly gets a signal that it’s hungry.
You know what happens next.
3. Stress-Fueled Feasting
Photo courtesy Clever Cupcakes
Ghrelin isn’t the only thing that’s going to make you eat more food. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but when you’re stressed out, you tend to crave carbohydrates and salty dishes—pizza, hamburgers, cakes, you name it.
These comfort foods are very soothing to the over-stressed neurotransmitters in your brain, but they certainly don’t help you lose any weight.
It’s important to understand that stress is harmful to every aspect of your life. It can certainly make you gain weight, but it’s also the foundation of many diseases. It’s crucial that you figure out a way to manage it.
I know this is easier said than done, and that’s why I want to share two simple practices you can use to reduce your stress levels. I go into all of these in more depth in my upcoming book The All-Day Fat Burning Diet.
Keep a Gratitude Journal – I’m sure you can rattle off a list of problems and annoyances in your life, but what about the things you’re grateful for? Writing about the things you’re thankful for allows you to maintain a positive and grateful outlook, which in turn helps dissolve that seemingly inescapable stress.
Meditation – This has been a tremendous help for me. It’s the first thing I do every day, and it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes. Meditating gets you centered and grounded, and helps you visualize the good things you want to create in your life.
As I said, there’s plenty more to be found in The All-Day Fat-Burning Diet, which is going to help you reset your metabolism to lose up to five pounds per week without counting calories, without dogmatic diet rules, and without grueling hours of exercise, all of which only stresses your body out even further.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.