You already know that stress can be intense enough to raise your blood pressure, give you a heart attack (especially during your kid's teenage years!), and even cause a stroke. But can it also make you gain weight? Are Americans constantly fighting the battle of the bulge because of our poor eating habits or can it be also because of our whirlwind existance in this highly technological, information overloaded world?
Here's the lowdown about what happens to your body when you're stressed. First, your muscles tighten up because your body thinks you may be in danger. Your heart beats faster, your breathing quickens and your blood pressure goes up. Your digestion shuts down to ensure that all of your energy is saved for your extremities so that you can run (fight or flight). Your liver helps you by releasing glycogen in the form of blood sugar. The body's systems are amazing!
The problem? All of the above actions are designed to be used in acute stress situations, but when you are living your life in this state over and over, you can do serious long term damage to your body. Poor digestion leads to IBS and not absorbing nutrients correctly. Constant muscle contraction contributes to inflammation in the body that can cause arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. If your blood sugar is always up it can create Type II Diabetes.
Do you find that people that are stressed get sick alot? Here's why: Cortisol from your adrenal glands shuts down your immune system's ability to fight off infection and protect you against diseases. Cortisol also promotes fat deposits around your middle - and this can happen even when you are eating and exercising right.
What foods do we crave when we are stressed? Foods that release seratonin, a feel good hormone. Pasta, potatoes, dairy products, and that hot, just out of the oven loaf of bread.
When you are living through a stressful situation, don't beat yourself up about a few pounds that you may have put on. Create an awareness around what your coping mechanisms have been and find positive, easy to implement steps to deal with it. Your body is here to serve you well for the rest of your life - be sure to appreciate it.
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