Are you frequently exposed to stress due to work or school, conflicts with family or friends, or even while sitting impatiently in a traffic jam? Although such situations may seem harmless, with prolonged and repeated exposures these simple stressors can set off a progressive cascade of events leading to unhealthy weight gain, poor health and, ultimately, disease.
How Stress Affects the Body
In stressful situations, the body responds by releasing a powerful steroid hormone called cortisol. Under normal circumstances, cortisol functions in providing the body with enough energy to cope with day-to-day challenges. However, problems arise when you’re stressed out every day, all the time.
Cortisol has a specific role in physically preparing the body for any and all situations that are perceived as ‘dangerous’, whether life-threatening or not. This means that your cortisol levels can become elevated from something as simple as a flight delay to something as life changing as a death in the family.
Interestingly enough, although such stressful situations are distinct, they each elicit similar bodily responses. Unfortunately, cortisol causes five key changes in the body that can ultimately lead to unhealthy weight gain and other health problems:
1. Breaks down muscle protein while decreasing amino acid uptake by muscles.
These effects can cause severe muscle wasting and potentially slow the metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories). Collectively, these changes can greatly contribute to body fat accumulation and weight gain.