Stress and Gaining Weight. What is the relationship between stress and weight gain? Is stress really associated with the accumulation of fat especially around the waistline area? Does stress make it harder to lose weight? Stress is an amazing phenomenon that can charge you with a power surge of
energy when your body detects an emergency. It triggers the “fight or flight” reaction that sharpens your senses, elevates your heart rate and releases a boost of energy that is immediately available to your brain and muscles for swift and precise actions. While this phenomenon might be life saving, your brain cannot distinguish between a real emergency and everyday stress, so it triggers the same reaction in both situations. It is not a big deal when you’re under stress every once in a while, but when stress becomes your normal routine, it gets ugly. When you are stressed out, the cortisol levels in your bloodstream increase. Cortisol is a hormone that affects your energy and appetite, but it also has brutal side-effect: it gets absorbed by the omentum and instructs it to build up fat. The omentum is a flabby organ around your stomach that consists mainly of fat. In healthy people, the omentum is small and very thin. When stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels in the omentum remain continuously high. The omentum lapses into a frenzy where it commits itself into piling up more and more fat. The omentum can grow to extreme sizes to transform into what we commonly know as belly fat and love handles. So, it seems that stress can indeed cause waistline fat. Your body is designed to endure stress from time to time. However, chronic stress leads to the disruption of the energy balance maintained in your body. Energy exists in the body either as: Free energy in the form of glucose in the blood, Cheap energy in the form of glycogen in the muscles and the liver or fat in the form of fatty tissues Free energy is always being renewed by the food that you eat. Typically right after a meal, the sugar levels in your blood are higher than what is being consumed. Insulin works on reducing them by promoting the storage of blood sugar in the liver and muscles as glycogen. With chronic stress, the continuous supply of cortisol induces persistently high levels of sugars in the blood. Insulin continues to promote the sugar storage in the liver and muscles. However, the body has a limit for the amount of glycogen it can store in the liver and muscles. Beyond this limit, your body enters this insulin-driven mode where sugars are converted directly into fat. When stress is chronic, this mode becomes always turned-on, making it indeed much harder for the stressed person to lose weight. So, If you are under constant stress and you are trying to lose weight, work on getting rid of the stress first, it will make your life much easier.