From Cortisol to Cravings: The Science of Stress and Weight Loss

Does Stress Cause Weight Gain


Have you ever noticed that stress seems to go hand in hand with cravings and weight gain? It's not just you - there's actual science behind why stress can sabotage your weight loss efforts.

In this blog post, we'll explore the science of stress and weight loss, and share our top tips for managing stress and staying on track with your weight loss goals.


Cortisol and Stress: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Let's start with cortisol, the so-called "stress hormone". When your body is under stress - whether it's from a tough day at work, an argument with a loved one, a scary movie, or even just a strong cup of coffee - it releases cortisol. 

In small amounts, cortisol can actually be helpful, giving you a quick burst of energy and focus to deal with the stressor at hand. But when cortisol levels stay elevated for long periods of time, it can have some negative effects on your weight loss surgery journey.

For one thing, high cortisol levels have been linked to increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods. When your cortisol levels are high, your body craves quick energy in the form of sugar and carbs - which can quickly add up and cause weight gain. High cortisol levels are also responsible for those dreaded "muffin tops" as the body tends to store fat in the abdominal area when cortisol levels are elevated.


So, how can you keep cortisol in check? Here are our best stress hacks:


Stress Hack #1 - Stop the spiral

Do you ever let your thoughts spiral out of control, worrying about things that haven’t happened yet? Guilty! So much precious energy and heartache goes into thinking about all the things that might go wrong. I call it doomsday thinking. It takes a little practice, but, when you find yourself doing this, catch the thoughts and remind yourself to deal only with what is - not what your mind is imagining. 


Stress Hack #2 - Learn to love saying NO

Many of us who’ve struggled with our weight are people-pleasers. Do you ever struggle to say ‘no’ and overextend yourself as a result? If so, consider this - by saying no now, you are giving yourself the gift of time later, to use however YOU want. Time is precious, treat yours as such! 


Stress Hack #3 - Delegation

Ever thought ‘It’s easier to just do it myself’ instead of delegating or asking for help? ME. TOO. But when the seesaw between responsibilities and freedom becomes too one-sided, we can become overwhelmed. Take stock of your task load and consider if they are really necessary, then ask for help, or delegate where possible. 


Stress Hack #4 - Up your nutrient game

Did you know that when we are stressed out our vitamin and mineral needs increase? Make a conscious effort to keep up with your daily dose of multivitamins. You can also give your body a boost by snacking on foods that can help reduce cortisol levels, like dark chocolate, avocado, and berries. Yes, you read that right - you can actually eat chocolate to reduce stress! Just be sure to choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao to get the most benefit.

Cravings and Stress: Breaking the Cycle

Let's talk about cravings. When you're feeling stressed out, it's easy to reach for the nearest bag of chippies or tub of ice cream. But these foods can actually make stress worse, as they can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that lead to more cravings and mood swings. 


So, how can we break the cycle of stress and cravings? Here are some easy-peasy ideas:

  • Try a new hobby or activity that distracts you from the stressor and provides a sense of accomplishment. How ‘bout painting, playing video games, or even cleaning out the junk cupboard. Finding something to take your mind off cravings is key.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks that satisfy your cravings without derailing your weight loss goals. Some ideas include air-popped popcorn, fresh fruit with nut butter, or veggie sticks with hummus.
  • Make time for self-care that promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Take a hot bath, get a massage, or curl up with a good book - anything that helps you unwind and recharge.


Final Thoughts: Taking it one step at a time

Remember, it's okay to have setbacks and slip-ups along the way - what's important is that you keep going and keep trying. By incorporating fun and practical tips like these, you can reduce stress, manage cravings, and achieve your weight loss goals with confidence and joy.


Emma x

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