The Connection Between Stress & Weight Gain

By EMP180° Weight Loss

Did you know that one of the biggest sources of weight-loss resistance is stress?
The stress response is designed for short term, quick responses. But when it is prolonged or chronic, “unchecked, high levels of cortisol cause high blood sugar, increased belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and muscle loss”, says Functional Medicine doctor Mark Hyman.
You can’t eliminate stress completely, but there are ways to manage and reduce it. There are activities such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and deep relaxation, which all help activate pathways that promote weight loss and health. And then there is the food you eat. Food can either be your biggest ally or biggest enemy when it comes to stress. It can make your stress levels go up or down, so it’s critical to pay attention to what you’re eating when you’re feeling frazzled.

Fighting Stress with Food
A healthy diet is a good defense against stress and can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body. Eating healthy builds a solid, more durable foundation for your body by reducing oxidation and inflammation and by helping to reduce weight gain. Combating stress with food is a tactic that is available to everyone. Some things you can do immediately using nutrition to reduce the symptoms of stress.

Avoid or Limit Caffeine
Coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which can intensify some stressful situations. Drinking large amounts can interrupt the recuperative process of sleep, causing you to be more tired the next day or needing more caffeine. If you need a pick me up, try drinking some water! You’d be surprised at its energizing effects, especially if you are lacking in that area. Also, examine your meals and exercise. A nutrient-dense meal or snack and a brisk walk outdoors has amazing energizing effects on the body and can promote good, recuperative sleep.

Eliminate or Moderate Alcohol
Using alcohol to relieve stress can turn into a vicious cycle. You come home and are tired or stressed from your day, pour yourself a glass of wine and feel immediate relief. But then you find your food choices are inhibited, or your quality of sleep has been impacted. If you drink, limit yourself to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.

Avoid Eating to Relieve Stress
Some people turn to food to comfort themselves when they are under stress. This can lead to overeating and guilt. If this is a problem for you, try to replace eating with other actions that relieve stress, such as taking a walk, playing with a pet, or taking a bath. Sometimes it’s the feeling that food or drinks induce, not their nutrients, that helps reduce stress. Drinking a warm cup of tea is one way to help make yourself feel calmer. I like to use tea to wind down after dinner, to prep myself for bed and to stave off cravings for dessert.

Stick to Complex Carbs
Contrary to what some may believe, our bodies need carbohydrates for energy and to aid in digestion, among other things. Carbohydrates also increase levels of serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone. However, when tension or boredom strikes, many of us turn to simple carbs, such as cookies, cakes, and “white” foods, like white pasta and white bread. These unrefined carbs cause a quick spike and crash of blood sugar, while complex carbs, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. These have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar and take longer to digest, which can have a calming effect on the body.
Having readily available meals with complex carbs and healthy proteins on hand can help you avoid the urge to give into simple carbs. MightyMeals makes it easy with freshly-made healthy meals like these.

Southwestern Mini Quiches
Roasted Chicken Florentine

Increase Mood-Boosting Foods
What you do to your body, you do to your brain! The body and the brain are interconnected. Foods that boost your mood and feed your brain include dark leafy greens, lean meats, fatty fish like salmon, tuna and halibut and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocado and nuts. 
MightyMeals has several mood-boosting meal options, like these salmon meals with brown rice:

Caribbean Jerk Salmon
Hoisin Glazed Salmon

Support Your Gut Function
The importance of the connection between the gut and the brain in regulating response to stress has long been appreciated. Diet is one of the most important modifying factors of the gut-brain axis. The best way to support healthy gut hormones is with good-for-you bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics can help boost the immune system, protect against harmful bacteria, and improve digestion and absorption of nutrients. Fermented foods and fiber-rich foods are also gut-friendly and can play an important role in lowering stress.
Make Mealtimes Calm and Relaxed
Try not to skip meals or eat on the run. Skipping meals can worsen stress-related symptoms and may cause you to turn to unhealthy foods in a pinch. Set aside specific times dedicated to your meals, and use mealtime to relax, enjoy the flavor of your meal, and reflect on your day. 
If you are having difficulty managing stress, talk to your EMP180 health coach or schedule a free consultation with one of our MightyFIT nutrition experts. They are trained to help you navigate these situations and offer new ways of coping.

ABOUT EMP180° – EMP180° offers personalized nutrition and weight loss programs designed to help individuals and entire families permanently change their health. Our highly trained nutrition coaches work with clients to help them transform their eating habits, achieve and maintain a target weight. We then provide life-long support, critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and optimal health long-term. For more information, please visit