Keeping it real and using science to explain

Q: Cynthia, I seem to gain the most weight when I am stressed. I don’t think I am eating more than usual so why am I gaining weight?

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at 2015.06.24
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A: I have heard this many times. When your life just can’t seem to get any crazier- your roof is leaking, your daughter dropped out of high school and your wife just left you for your son’s Karate instructor-you seem to suddenly pack on the pounds.

YES, you really will eat differently when you are stressed. Unfortunately, stress can increase our appetite by activating a series of stress hormones that really can impact your weight. When you are stressed your body reacts in a “flight or fight” mode by releasing cortisol from your adrenal glands. The cortisol in turn raises your blood sugar and stimulates insulin release to boost your energy when you are in ‘flight or fight’ to help you “run” from a stressor (think of how helpful that would be if a tiger were chasing you).

Unfortunately, the end result is an increased appetite, storage of more visceral or abdominal fat and a great deal of exhaustion when you “crash and burn” leaving you too fatigued to exercise, another reason you may gain weight.

Even though you have a pretty good understanding of what you should or should not eat, stress effects the way the brain makes smart decisions of what to eat for your next meal. Think about it, which would you choose if you are running late for the train, your daughter tells you she is also having a baby and you are still upset about the karate instructor?- a nice healthy ½ of a grapefruit or a chocolate donut with sprinkles?

Instead, learn to manage stress and work on choosing long-term gain over short-term reward. The key is prevention. Awareness and management of stress is a start in adults. Get good sleep, eat healthy, exercise and practice “chilling” more than once in a while! Mindfulness training, meditation, yoga and even counseling can help.

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