Stress-Induced Obesity: The Intangibles Are Now Making Us Fat Too!

Eeeesh! Now things we can’t physically touch are working against us in our fight against obesity. It’s like we’re in the middle of the movie Predator and our only hope lies in the hands of a strapping, young Arnold Swartznegger to terminate the invisible monster.

Come to think of it though, Arnold himself has most definitely fallen victim to the effects of stress. Thinking that that guy isn’t under a boatload of stress at the moment would be terribly naive of me. In no time short I bet you we’ll be seeing an ever more old and out of shape Arnold trying to resume his acting career in the hopes of regaining some of the fortune I’m sure Maria is going to extract from him ever so painfully. (Next time you see him on the big screen, check out his hip to waist ratio… I’m thinking the belly is going to be the mightier of the two.)

So everyone has stress. You can have a little, or you can have a boatload. It’s the boatloaders that are in for rude awakening because this intangible stress does a serious number on your bod. Just check out that roll or two peeking out over your shorts and grab a hold of it because that could be the only tangible thing about your stress.

But why? you desperately ask, since many of you may feel entitled to this stress. The job, the horrible boss, the whiny kids, the always in the mood husband… stress is your excuse and dammit, you’re not letting it go. It’s why you lash out at your kids, it’s why you hate your boss, it’s your I’m not in the mood because I’m stressed and have no time for romance excuse!

While it may be useful for such things, it’s also the reason for so many other things… bad things like muffin tops, and more seriously, things like hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids), and hyperglycemia (elevated glucose). (That was not me speaking but a wonderful resource I found on the matter right here at www.unm.edu)

Here’s what I’ve gathered from said wonderful resource on the matter. First, to define stress, its “….the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it” and harmful stress is called distress.

When there is too much stress and a loss of control and hopelessness is felt by the individual, ‘fight’ and ‘flight’ hormones are released throughout the body, eventually leading to the release of a little known hormone called cortisol that comes from the adrenal cortex of the kidneys. (Seriously, can we evolve already from this ‘fight’ and ‘flight’ reaction already! That reaction seriously should have been purged by now with all the corn syrup, additives, preservatives and Twinkies we’ve consumed as a species thus far!)

So this cortisol apparently isn’t something you want floating around your insides all that often… it causes some serious upheaval when there is too much of it in the system. It mucks up the works despite some admirable qualities it may possess, like acting as an anti-inflammatory agent. However, too much of its release is not a good thing. Cortisol directly affects fat storage and weight gain in stressed individuals. (Did you see that? It DIRECTLY effects fat storage and weight gain!) Studies have shown that when exposed to stressful situations for long periods of time, the body starts to crave foods that are high in fat and sugar (of course, why not? Heaven forbid it should work with us and have us craving Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa.) Too much cortisol in the system and your body is likely to move fat deposits around and if you’re not exercising, these fat deposits will be coming to a belly near you in record time, instead of being ushered to working muscles (and doing bicep curls with your fork doesn’t count.)

Many, if not all of my clients, have said to me that they are stressed, majorly stressed actually, and some wear it almost as a badge of honor. I’m not sure I get that but maybe they run with a tough crew and if you’re not stressed, then you’re not a good mommy/career-minded individual/wife… who the hell knows. Whatever the reason, stress has to be managed because it’s effects on the body are real.

So what are some effective ways to handle stress? C’mon… are you seriously asking that question?

Seriously??

Alright, I’ll bite.

Effective ways to defeat stress: “mediation, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, and visualization” are all good things as is anaerobic and aerobic exercise.

Basically… move your ass!

It’s that simple.

And please… quit stressing about it!

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About the Author: Anne Marie Constanzo