Stress: A Culprit Behind Weight Gain, Belly Fat, and Chronic Disease

How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Stress

If you are frequently exposed to stress you’re definitely at risk of cortisol-related weight gain and chronic diseases. The risk of health problems is further exacerbated if you engage in unhealthy behaviors when stressed (cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and binge eating).

Personally, I tend to be an emotional eater when stressed. As such, when confronted with everyday hassles, I ignore those urges to eat by putting on my tennis shoes and getting in a workout. Here are five strategies that I personally recommend.

1. Lifting Weights

Weight training provides an outlet by which you can channel your stress, as doing so significantly heightens the levels of endorphins and other ‘feel good’ hormones in the body. When coupled with a well-balanced diet of high-quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein, lifting weights also prevents cortisol-associated muscle wasting thereby preserving the metabolic rate.

2. Performing Intense Cardio Exercise

When performed at a high enough intensity, a 20-minute bout of cardiovascular (cardio) exercise increases endorphin levels to a much greater extent than an hour-long session of low-intensity cardio. By intense I mean hill or stair climbing, running or very intense walk/run intervals, cycling at very high speeds, cardio kickboxing or other intense group-exercise formats, and timed-lap swimming.

3. Monitoring Your Carb Intake

Haphazardly consuming carbohydrates (carbs) triggers elevations in cortisol levels. This especially holds true for refined “simple” carbs (white flour and rice, regular pasta, cakes, pies, pastries, candy and soda). Since simple carbs are comprised of sugar, consuming them leads to intense insulin surges followed by marked crashes in blood glucose. The body treats this response as a ‘stressor’, which cause cortisol levels to rise.

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