How many calories does stress have? We agree this is a ridiculous question, but ask almost anyone if stress can make a person fat and you will receive a resounding yes But if we agree stress has no calories, and we also believe fat gain is all about calories, then how does stress stimulate fat gain?
The truth is the calorie model is not the whole story on fat loss. Stress and other lifestyle factors work through complicated hormonal and metabolic mechanisms that alter not only the amount of calories we eat, but also where on the body we store them and most importantly which type we burn; sugar, fat, or muscle.
We realise not everyone likes to delve into the deep biochemistry that is required to truly understand how stress causes fat gain, so we will do our best to make this as simple as we can. One thing is for certain, if you can understand the impact stress has on our physiology and why it makes us fat you will begin to see a whole new way of thinking about diet, exercise and lifestyle open up.
Before we can even begin to talk about stress, it is important to understand what it is and how humans have adapted to deal with it.
Humans have evolved on this planet for millions of years. We have had to deal with predators, food shortages, ice ages, natural disasters, rugged terrain, uncertain future and countless other “stressful” things. If you think you have it tough today, imagine walking down the street and having a pack of hungry wolves jump out from behind a lorry and decide you are for dinner. Or walking into a supermarket where the cashier hands you a spear and points you towards the wild boar living in aisle 4. This may seem laughable right now, but understanding the physiological reaction of that kind of stress is exactly what is needed to decipher the impact stress has on fat gain.
The bottom line is humans are designed for acute stress like running away from a hungry predator, fighting of an intruder, or catching dinner. That is because during the millions of years we have been on the planet, we encountered these types of stress all the time. These stresses were unpleasant yes, but short lived. We also encountered types of chronic stress, which usually came in the form of droughts and food shortages. These stressors never lasted for long and usually ended fairly soon. Your physiology is hard wired to the realities of your historic ancestors. Whether you are being chased by a pack of wolves, fighting a wild boar,
Now we are over 40 and our hormones are running riot, we are even more stress reactive. The result is weight gain around the tummy area. Fat is stored here to be easily accessible to the liver to convert to energy in an emergency ie: stressful time. WE DON’T LIKE IT!
So, what to do :-
1) Stress reliving activities – massage, breathing, yoga, pilates, meditation, reading, being in the quiet.
2) Eat foods that will not stress the body ie: processed rubbish, sugar and alcahol
3) Don’t over exercise – this also can stress the body. So, no running marathons, triathlons, or hikes up huge mountains.
Just LISTEN to your body, turn up the volume loud and really LISTEN to what it needs.