Your Wellbeing: Weight Loss Through Stress Reduction

Your Wellbeing: Weight Loss Through Stress Reduction

Our workdays are hard pressed with deadlines, sleep deprivation, and a steady diet of caffeine. Too often, people sink deeper and deeper into a rollercoaster of chronic stress and nightly sleep deprivation that leaves their bodies packing on the pounds. Our bodies work best when we feel our best. So how do we begin to unravel the mystery of our bodies when it comes to the hurling rollercoaster of weight gain, stress, and sleep deprivation? Here, these three tightly twined areas of need are discussed.



Stress and the Weight Gain Rollercoaster


Obesity. Even the word alone evokes a rather uncomfortable sensation in some readers’ bodies and minds. The BMI, or body mass index, is a commonly used tool in the medical world to measure the amount of body fat a person has in relation to their height. The number derived from this measurement determines if a person has a healthy weight for their given height. Having a BMI higher than 29.9, according to the National Health Service (NHS), is considered obese. 


There could be many causes for having a high BMI. Some ailments and diseases may cause a person to struggle with weight management. In addition, the medications used to treat these ailments could potentially cause weight gain. And for the general population, watching one's weight is a common part of a healthy lifestyle. A lurking culprit of weight gain in everyday regimes has been identified as stress. While everyone, at some point in their life, has faced a stressful trigger, it is when stress becomes chronic that our bodies begin to have an adverse reaction to the stress that is accumulating. 



Sleep Deprivation: Spinning into Weight Gain


Chronic stress disrupts a person's sleep cycle. Those who suffer from chronic stress will often find themselves adrift in sleepless or fitful nights. With much needed sleep disrupted, a person’s body will attempt to compensate for the lack of sleep. The King’s College London and UV University Amsterdam conducted a study in 2017 on the correlation of weight gain and sleep deprivation. Their results were conclusive that partial sleep deprivation caused an increase in energy intake while having no effect on energy expenditure. A person’s energy intake (EI) is the calories consumed while the energy expenditure (EE), or resting metabolic rate, is the energy that is used. The 2017 study found that the EI was increased by 385kcal (roughly the calorie intake of four and a half slices of bread). Put simply, when a person is sleep deprived, they tend to eat more to battle the feelings of fatigue and tiredness. But because there is no change in physical activity and energy expenditure, this additional caloric intake leads to weight gain. 


King’s College London conducted a smaller scale study to examine the correlation between sleep deprivation and increased brain activity. Some individuals who suffered from partial sleep deprivation have increased activation in areas of the brain that is associated with reward from food. So, the cycle begins as chronic stress tightens it’s hold. An individual begins to have a loss of consistent sleep due to stress. As their sleep becomes unbalanced, not only does their stress increase, but their brain is put into overdrive and triggers a coping mechanism that induces the “feel good” feeling when that individual consumes food. The cycle is vicious: stress leads to sleep deprivation; sleep deprivation leads to higher consumption of food to compensate for the lack of energy. This demonstrates how weight gain is often a side effect of an individual’s body coping with lack of sleep and increased comfort calorie intake. 

How it Works


The question then boils down to which symptom a person should treat in this vicious cycle of weight gain. Chronic stress could be identified as the grain of rice that tipped the scale. Therefore, it should be the first one tackled in order to begin to build defences against weight gain.


Stress and individual responses to stress affect our mood, energy, blood pressure, hunger, and many more. In some people, this can lead to a rapid weight gain. Natural food supplements that enhance our body’s naturally occurring “feel good '' physiological responses can help. Using such products in our daily routine to help increase our body’s natural physiological response to stress has the potential to encourage stress reduction. Treating chronic stress could potentially result in better sleep which would then lead to more controllable caloric intake.


Stress Toolkit


Our bodies are complex machines that are regulated by our emotional neuron firing brains. The compounds already found naturally occurring in our bodies are behind the mechanism counteracting the stress. While not many scholarly studies have been conducted on weight loss, many studies have proven that stress reduction has a positive effect on the functioning of the human body. Thus, it is important to remember that when dealing with our bodies, it is always best practice to discuss any lifestyle changes with a medical professional. 



The Final Takeaway


You are your own advocate. You know your body and its responses best. When changing your lifestyle, it is always recommended that you consult with your doctor first. Underlying medical concerns may contribute to adverse reactions and unwanted side effects. Staying up to date with current research in the field from reliable sources is also a positive step towards understanding the effects of stress on weight loss and the overall health.


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