Everyone knows that certain foods and a lack of physical activity will make you fat, but are you also aware that some feelings can lead you to pack on the pounds? And no, we’re not just talking about the extra weight caused by reaching for that pint of Ben & Jerry’s because you’re bummed after a breakup.
Belly fat is influenced by a complex series of hormones that course through your brain and body constantly, and multiple studies have established a link between cortisol—a hormone that’s released when you are anxious or stressed—and weight gain.
In a 2017 study published in the journal Obesity, English researchers compared stress levels and body weight of more than 2,500 men and women over age 54. What they found was that levels of cortisol in the hair were positively and significantly correlated to larger waist circumference and higher body mass index. To put it simply, the study proved that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of obesity.
From an evolutionary perspective, cortisol was meant to alert your body to external dangers (like that buffalo headed straight for you) and low blood-glucose levels. Since it functions to increase blood sugar (to give you a boost of energy), to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, its release actually forces your body to store fat and makes you feel hungry. In other words, if you’re stressed, you’ll start craving that afternoon candy bar even if your stomach is full.
So what can you do to stop this stress-induced weight gain? Avoid stress, of course! Though that’s easier said than done, we’ve compiled a list of quick and easy ways to nip those anxious feelings in the bud so you don’t put on any unwanted pounds. Speaking of excess weight, keep your belly toned and lean with 50 Ways to Lose the Last 10 Pounds!
Know Your Relaxation Techniques
Various relaxation techniques work differently for everyone, so try a few out to determine what works best for you. A few popular options include meditating for a few minutes each day, taking a soothing bath, or calming down with some yoga. For something a bit less time consuming, try a simple exercise such as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. And while we’re on the topic of saving time, take a look at these 50 Cheap and Easy Slow Cooker Recipes!
Hit The Gym
The theory that exercise makes you happy wasn’t just something postulated by Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. In fact, Harvard researchers have found that in addition to releasing mood-elevating endorphins, exercise also reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Eat Foods With Vitamin C
Another way to combat cortisol is to eat foods that are loaded with vitamin C. Though it’s unclear exactly how the vitamin fights stress, research has proven it to be an effective anxiety antidote In one study cited in Psychology Today, German researchers subjected 120 people to a sure-fire stressor—a public speaking task combined with math problems. 60 participants were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C prior to the stress-inducing activities, while the other 60 were not. Those who did not get the vitamin supplement exhibited elevated cortisol levels and high blood pressure, while those who got vitamin C reported that they felt less stressed.
Foods rich in vitamin C include strawberries, broccoli, kohlrabi, mango, and Brussels sprouts. For inspiration on how you can incorporate these nutrient-packed fruits and veggies and more into your daily meals, take a look at 23 Best Protein Shake Recipes for Weight Loss!