Does Stress Make us Fat?

We are pre-programmed to deal with stress through the fight-or-flight response. In pre-historic times, when a saber-toothed tiger was chasing you, your fight-or-flight instincts would kick in, increasing levels of adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones in your body. In the short-term, these hormones increase your heart rate and blood pressure and decrease appetite in an effort to save you from danger. Once the stressful episode subsides, your hormone levels go back to normal.

However, in today’s world, the chances of being chased by a tiger are (thankfully) very low. Instead, stress develops in reaction to long-term anxiety related to work, relationships, bills and much more. Without a physical release of tension (i.e. escaping death from the tiger), cortisol continues to build up and the fight-or-flight mechanism backfires.

What’s So Wrong with Cortisol, Anyway?

Nothing, if it is kept in check. But when cortisol is chronically elevated, this hormone can disrupt many of your body’s functions, including but not limited to the following:

  • Increased stimulation of appetite hormones, causing us to eat more and gain weight
  • Increased risk for depression and anxiety and subsequently, trouble sleeping
  • An increased risk of heart disease because of the connection between stress and high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, physical inactivity, and overeating
  • Decreased immunity related to a state of chronic inflammation, which suppresses disease-fighting white blood cells

3 Ways to Banish Stress

1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet (aka eat Plantable)

When stressed, we often turn to “comfort foods” (i.e. processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt) to cope. These foods can lead to major crashes in energy and are often stored as fat, leading to weight gain and increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. Avoid this by selecting whole, plant-based foods. We are here to help make it as easy as possible.

2. Get moving
Research has shown that physical activity reduces the immediate effects of stress and can have immediate psychological benefits. It may sound like the last thing you want to do when stressed but trust us, you will feel better after – endorphins are real.

3. Get social
It may sound like a no-brainer but hanging out with friends and loved ones is a powerful anti-stressor. Research has shown that a lack of quality social connections may make you more prone to certain health conditions like cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure and even cancer.