Is stress holding onto fat?

By Kyle Finneron
As I was writing my list of reasons people are frustrated at the gym and not losing weight I noticed something. Most of the reasons I was writing about share a common root: stress. It should come as no surprise that Americans are stressed out- always trying to do more and be better than they were yesterday. That drive and ambition is what made America what it is today.
Unfortunately the stress we put on ourselves can be cutting our lifespans short. Stress affects the body in dozens of ways and only a few of them are beneficial; many lead to weigh gain among other things. As a culture we need to learn to deal with stress more effectively.
I truly hope no one is surprised when I say that excess stress can be harmful. According to the 2011 Stress in America study performed by the American Psychology Association, the percentage of people that feel extreme stress has decreased from 32 percent to 22 percent from 2007-2011. While that’s progress, it still means that roughly one in four people feel extreme stress. Removing or managing stress is a vital part of any healthy lifestyle. Here are some common pitfalls that, if removed, could help remove stress, too.
Too few deep breaths
Exercise is a form of controlled stress on the body. The body is designed to respond to acute stress very well (“fight or flight” response) but is not suited for a constant stressed state. There are a number of options when trying to manage stress. Simple meditation, breathing exercises or going for a walk can help reduce some of the stress of the day and allow you to unwind. A form of deep breathing called “box breathing” (or four-square breathing) can also be a very helpful and effective breathing technique when feeling stressed. The practice is simple, but requires adherence to the simple ways to gain full benefits. (Look it up and try it for yourself!)
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”
Sleep is one of the biggest components of any healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, it seems to be the first thing to be neglected when people are busy. All the work you do in the gym will be for naught if you do not allow your body time to rest and repair itself. According to an article titled “Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening” published on the National Institute of Health (PubMed) website, a lack of sleep can cause an increase in cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which causes the body to hold onto more of that stubborn fat. For men especially, after a long night of partying or pulling an all-nighter your testosterone levels drop to the floor the next day. Many people think of an all-nighter as a badge of honor but it is affecting your more than you think.
People usually underestimate the effects alcohol has when they are looking to gain muscle or lose fat. Alcohol is a toxin that your body has to remove before it can burn other calories. This means that any other calories you have with, or after alcohol are put on hold until all the booze has been burned off. How does your body deal with unused calories? It will store them as fat. Your body also craves saltier, fattier foods while alcohol is in the body. A 2006 study in “Psychology and Behavior” for that when 12 men consumed 32 grams (1.1 ounce) of alcohol before lunch that consumed more calories and craved saltier and higher fat foods. This really is a double dose of diet destruction.

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