Understanding the Stress Response and Weight Gain

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Our stress response is designed to help us survive an immediate threat. Let’s say you spot a saber-toothed tiger headed your way. The amygdala, a neural network involved in the processing of memory and emotions (primarily fear), sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that communicates with the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates your body’s fight-or-flight response at the first sign of danger. A cascade of changes then takes place.

Your adrenal glands release adrenaline, a hormone that prepares you to fight or to flee. Your pulse quickens. Your heartbeat and blood pressure increase­­. Blood flow is redirected to your muscles (in case you need to flee), heart and vital organs. Your lungs expand so that you can take in more oxygen. Glucose is released into the blood stream, increasing blood sugar, supplying the body with energy.12  All of these bodily changes take place without your awareness.

Part two of the stress response involves the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released from the adrenal glands and spikes high. Once you’ve escaped that tiger, your cortisol levels drop, and your body returns to a parasympathetic (rest-and-relax) state.13

The stress response is designed to be temporary. A body that remains in a chronic state of stress (sympathetic state), however, sets the stage for health problems, including weight gain and poor immunity. Why?

Because, in a never-ending state of “Emergency!!!”, your body is constantly releasing the stress hormone cortisol. In excess, cortisol promotes fat storage, especially around the belly. Chronically high cortisol levels raise blood sugar (increasing risk of insulin resistance); increases appetite (you feel hungry more often); ramps up cravings for foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt (hello Oreos, ice cream, pizza and fries!); inhibits thyroid function, and slows down overall fat-burning. The result?  Weight gain!

Here’s the good news:

By choosing to adjust how you perceive “stress”; what foods you choose to eat; and how you choose to sleep, move and live CONSISTENTLY, your body can naturally release weight. In the process, you increase energy, strengthen immunity and improve overall health. Here are 14 steps you can take right now to release stress-induced weight.

Continue Reading About Weight Gain and Immune Health and Natural Weight Release (see below):

Stress, COVID-19 and Weight Gain  (Part 1)
How to Naturally Release Stress-Induced Weight Gain  (Part 3)

Hi, I’m Kathryn Matthews. As a Board Certified Functional Health Coach, I help clients reclaim their energy, vitality and well-being. I want you to feel empowered about taking charge of YOUR health! To learn more, see About Kathryn.

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