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Stress and its effects on weight

10.01.2022

Nowadays, we live in a society that constantly demands more performance and efficiency. The main consequence: we live in a hurry and with daily stress. Did you know that chronic stress has undesirable effects on our health? And in particular weight gain?
 

What is stress and how to recognize it?

In a few words, it is the result of the action of physical factors (trauma, cold, burns...) but also psychological or social factors.
 
Note that each person reacts differently to stress, however here are the most common symptoms:
 
  • Acceleration of the heart rate
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Faster breathing
  • Release of hormones: ACTH, cortisol, adrenaline, oxytocin, vasopressin
  • Muscle fatigue and tension, especially between the shoulder blades
  • Hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, contact, emotional irritability, anxiety...
  • Profuse sweating.
 

How stress affects weight: cortisol

There are 2 main explanations for weight gain due to stress: The first is cortisol. This hormone is secreted in case of stress and remains high in case of long term stress. Cortisol modifies the storage of sugar and water and reduces muscle mass. It promotes fat storage in the abdominal area, increases our appetite and directs our food choices towards fatty and sweet products.
 
The second explanation is that when we are faced with negative emotions, we tend to compensate with food. Whether it is by eating to fill up and stop thinking or by using a comfort food, linked to our childhood or to positive emotions.
 

How to manage your stress? 

  • Cardiac coherence is achieved through slow, ample and regular breathing of 6 cycles per minute, leading to the synchronization of the heartbeat and breathing.
  • Meditation: used in a therapeutic context to treat recurrences of depression or the effects of stress. It helps to free oneself from devaluing thoughts or ruminations that undermine morale.
  • Physical activity allows us to have a low response to stressful situations and to secrete less adrenaline.
  • Magnesium reduces stress by preventing the rise of cortisol. Foods rich in magnesium: Chocolate 80% cocoa, flax seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds.
  • Tyrosine and Phenylalanine to optimize the production of dopamine and noradrenaline, precursors of adrenaline, which helps us manage stress. Foods rich in tyrosine and Phenylalanine: meat, dairy products but also oatmeal and wheat germ.
  • Glutamic acid is used to produce the neurotransmitter GABA which promotes relaxation and calm. Foods rich in glutamic acid: cod; parmesan; milk, soy, cheese, veal.
  • Tryptophan allows the synthesis of serotonin. It is involved in the regulation of mood and helps to cope with stress. Foods rich in Tryptophan: cod, salami, parmesan, parsley, pumpkin seeds, soy, milk, cheese.
 
Do you have difficulty adopting a healthy diet when you are stressed or do you eat your emotions? Don't hesitate to make an appointment with one of our nutritionist-dietitians to help you manage your stress.
 
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