Stress Can Make You Fat and Sick
It seems everywhere we look, we have evidence of the stress of everyday living. Whether it be work, relationships, finances, family or what to do over the weekend, there are ample stress activators we all deal with.
Many people have incorporated the mantra, “I’ll get around to it tomorrow,” into conversations when confronted with the need to address their stressors. Yet, left unattended, mild stress can escalate into serious medical conditions.
General stress, coupled with emotional stress, is associated with innumerable problems including being overweight and underweight. And eating food that is not right for you causes you more stress! Accumulated stress overloads the body and is the beginning of all disease. All of this equates to minimal emotional well-being and anxiety.
Psychologist Richard Lazarus refers to stress as any event in which environmental demands, internal demands, or both tax or exceed an individual’s adaptive resources. If your life seems calm and normal you might think your psychological stress is low, but dieting, over exercising, insomnia, infections, poor dental hygiene, environmental toxins, and even the political situation can be causing you subconscious stress.
Chronic Stress is Incredibly Unhealthy
Your body can handle acute or short-term stress quite well and recover from it, but you are not built to handle the chronic, unrelenting stress so rampant in our society today. Dr. Peter Levine said that our stress response is designed to last about forty-five seconds, not twenty-four hours or day after day.
The Impact of Emotions on Your Weight, Food, and How You Eat It
Constant stress causes the body to be “turned on” all the time, and not in a good way. The sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates bodily functions, goes haywire and the adrenal system gets stuck in the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. These systems stay turned on like a car alarm constantly blaring in the background.
The adrenal glands are small, triangular endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys waiting patiently to be called to duty. Their major role is to release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress.
Stress activates or depresses several functions in the body. Digestion is halted. The hypothalamus gland signals the adrenal system, and the sympathetic nervous system shoots impulses through the body. The heart beats faster, muscles tense, eyes dilate, and the mouth gets dry. This reaction has been named the fight or flight response. The body can’t tell the difference between being chased by a tiger or getting stuck in traffic; it just senses stress and kicks into gear.
Beyond fight and flight there is a third reaction to stress: freeze. Your body can stop you right in your tracks like a deer in the headlights. An overwhelming trauma can instantly stun you with a wave of hopelessness when it appears you have no chance for conquest or escape. Your blood pressure quickly drops when you freeze, and you can fall or faint. The parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which calms you down to rest and digest, clamps down and takes over from the freeze response.
Any way your body deals with stress, whether it be fight, flight, or freeze, halts your digestive system. Stress can make you sick and fat, and the food you eat might be doing no good for you at all.
Not all stress is bad stress. Actually, some stress, when kept in check is normal. However, when you are constantly stressed, this is very unhealthy. To minimize the danger associated with unhealthy stress, there are a few steps you can take to get things under control.
- Drink at least 64 ounces of purified water per day; more if possible. Most people drink no where near the minimum required. They assume their coffee, sodas, and energy drinks give them what they need. This is not at all the case. You absolutely need to replenish your body with lots of pure, clean water.
- Put aside at least ten minutes a day to “just be.” Turn off the phone, television, computer and anything electronic that is constantly vying for your attention. Sit for ten minutes in complete silence focusing on your breathing. You may need to set a timer to make sure you do this for the full ten minutes. You will be amazed at how much this one activity can reduce stress.
- Notice when you grab for food to stuff your stress factors. Rather than putting that donut, candy bar, or sugary treat in your mouth, take a short walk around your office or house. This one step will work wonders over time. Sugar increases stress substantially once the “high” wears off.
- Exercise. If you do minimal movement, start with a five-minute walk. It’s amazing how powerful a short, five-minute walk can be for one’s state of mind. If you exercise on a regular basis, avoid over-exercising as this can trigger your stress receptors. If you do exercise on a regular basis, try different types of exercise. For example, if you go to the gym a lot, try taking a hike in nature.
The bottom-line is this; stress kept in check is not a bad thing. Left unattended, stress can be deadly, but it doesn’t have to be. You do have a lot of say in how you handle stress.