(If you haven’t read Part 1 of this article then I suggest you do it before continuing. It’ll make more sense. Read it HERE)
In last weeks article we discussed the importance of sleep and how it can hurt or help our fat loss goals. As I mentioned in the previous article sleep and stress are strongly related to one another. We know having elevated levels of stress can cause weight gain. Or, so we thought. The majority of stress studies related to over eating point out that 46% of us overeat while 36% under eat (the remaining 18% do a combination of both). This begs the question: why do some of us overeat and others do not when face with stress?
Stress is a good thing in moderation and at the right times, such as when you first wake up (our stress hormone cortisol is highest in morning) and under extreme duress (such as running from a bear in the woods). However, chronic stress can lead to numerous physical and mental negative side effects: headaches, fatigue, upset stomach, insomnia, and irritability. According to the American Psychological Association 75% of Americans suffer physical and psychological problems because of their daily stress. As crazy as it sounds many of us suffer from psychological stress but it can have the same effect on our nervous as being chased by a bear…even thought nothing has occurred! We think about situations that might happen and that causes our nervous system to react as if our life was in danger. Fear of missing the bus, not turning a report in on time, and more are examples where our bodies think we’re in danger and reacts in an extreme manner with our biology. Now, imagine this reactions happening 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s no surprise we begin to suffer physically, including a weakened immune system. But, how does this relate to overeating?
Remember cortisol, our stress hormone? Well, in times of stress cortisol shoots through the roof. In response, our leptin (satiety hormone) becomes resistant. In other words, when we’re stressed our ability to realize we’re full from a meal goes down causing us to eat even more. When our cortisol levels are low our leptin is more sensitive and it doesn’t take much to make us feel satisfied after a meal. Another important discovery researches have noticed is that we only overeat when it’s food we enjoy….shocker!
Think about that for a second. When you’re stressed do you reach for broccoli or a pastry item like a donut? The donut of course! Why? Because it makes us feel good! I know, mind-blowing stuff right here. What you probably don’t realize is that it’s not our body’s reaction from the food but our brains reaction. Remember, the brain controls many processes of the body and this includes lowering cortisol. When the brain realizes we are “rewarding” ourselves it helps lower cortisol and, thus, our feelings of stress. Last time I checked I didn’t find broccoli all that rewarding. And don’t think just because you didn’t reach for the donut you’re avoiding weight gain when stressed. Care for a drink? Alcohol is one of the leading contributors to weight gain and helping us deal with stress. While alcohol can lead to fat gain on the surface (i.e. subcutaneous fat) it can lead to heavy amounts of visceral fat (i.e. fat on our organs). Just because you can’t see the fat doesn’t mean it’s not causing major damage on your health.
So, how do we fight off the stress? Medication? Some might say yes. Depending on your level of stress and health you might need to get something from your doctor. Me? I’m a huge fan of taking MAGNESIUM! It helps with cellular rebuilding, decrease our levels of stress, and it’s found in our food: dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans, lentils, avocados, low-fat dairy, and bananas. There are supplements on the market that can help as well. Look for an L-Threonate Magnesium for night time and a Glycinate for day time.
In addition to increasing your magnesium intake you can perform any activity that your brain views as “rewarding.” These activities include physical activity (i.e. working out, playing Frisbee with a friend, participating in a local kickball game), hanging out with a friend, playing videos games (yeah, I said it!), listening to your favorite songs (I suggest downloading “Have a Great Day” on Spotify®), and sex (safely of course). As with most things that improve our health there are many cheap and healthful ways of dealing with life’s problems. Need an easy start? Play some CandyCrush®. Seriously. You’ll be better.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!