Can being Stressed Out Make you Fat?

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Can being stressed out make you fat was a question I received from a client of mine a few years ago. I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive to answer because I was not sure. However, my philosphy is if I don’t know the answer I will tell my client that I am not sure but I will find out. And that is exactly what I did, but before I give you the answer I want to educate you a little on stress because contrary to belief not all stress is bad.

So what exactly is stress? Dr Hans Selye, the father of stress theory, defines stress as, ” the non specific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” With that also comes two theoretical models, which are the GAS (General Adaptation syndrome) and the Fintess Fatigue Model. I am not going to bore you with all the science behind the two theories but know that they both play a role in your health and your ability to lose fat.

The Human Function Curve

In above diagram you are looking at what is referred to as the human function curve. Here you can see that there are two kinds of stress.

Eustress- which is considered to be good stress

Distress – which is considered to be bad stress

As I mentioned earlier not all stress is bad and looking at the graph you can see that the body reacts to the good stress and actually uses that to function. However, at some point you hit a peak and if you continue to add stressors to life the body then goes into exhaustion and that is when health problems arise.

When I present this to groups I always talk about my wife. You see there are times during the year that her work puts more stress on her. Now, what is interesting is that she thrives on the demands but at some point she hits the wall and her body breaks down resulting in her getting sick. It is a text book example of the Human Function Curve.

So, what does this have to do with stress causing me to be fat?

Well, when you get stressed out your body releases hormones such as, adrenaline and cortisol to prepare your body to get out of harms way. Your body does not know that it might not be an immediate danger like the “Fight or Flight” mecahnism you learned about in health class. All it knows that you are putting more demands on it and it needs to protect itself.

Now, here lies the problem with that. Chronic stress and increased cortisol levels leads to weight gain and belly fat. Also, the physiological impact to the body results in decreases digestion, lower immune system, and lower endorphins. All of which are important if you are trying to lose weight and that belly fat.

So, can being stressed out make you fat? My answer is absolutely it can and it can also be leading to more health problems down the road. However, there are ways to reduce the stress and one such way is exercising and working out. A well designed workout can help reduce stress and lose weight.

If you want to learn more about how you can implement exercise as a stress reducer you can contact me and I would be happen to help, but if you want to wait I will be writing a followup article to this on ways to reduce stress so that you can lose fat.


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Category: Weight Loss

About the Author ()

I am a husband, father of 2 girls (I was told that I was meant to be King)! I have been in the fitness industry since graduating from the University of Florida back in 97. I had the privilege to do an internship with the world renowned Dr. Cooper and the Cooper Aerobics Center. My initial start after graduating was as a personal trainer at a small private personal training studio in Orlando. After eight months, I moved to Dallas and worked as a personal trainer and manager for the Premier Athletic Club in Dallas. Since that time I have continued to work as a fitness professional in a variety of roles. Most recent is the development of America's # 1Lifestyle program for Working Moms called "Working Mom Workouts." I enjoy working with my clients and helping people reach their fitness goals.

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