Is Stress making you fat?

DP / 16 November 2020

“Stress” is everywhere: work, family, relationships, friends, kids, money, traffic, builders, queues, our busy schedules etc.  We talk about it all the time and almost always in negative terms.


This is not surprising as the long-term negative consequences of stress are well documented:

  • increased risk of just about every major illness and disease

  • increased likelihood of developing unhealthy habits: e.g. smoking, drinking, poor eating habits, other substance abuse

  • increased risk of mental health issues: e.g. depression and anxiety

It is useful to understand “stress” a bit more.  Few people know that stress can be divided into two categories: “eustress” and “distress”.  Eustress is a positive: it's excitement, motivation and challenge - things that we all need and enjoy.  We all need some of this to perform at our best.  Have you ever felt that you do your best work when you are really up against it? Perhaps subconsciously we put ourselves in that place - under pressure - to get the best out of ourselves?

When it comes to your health and well-being we can divide stress into two more types: acute and chronic. Acute stressors are short lived responses to specific events.  You will notice this from a rush of adrenaline after an accident, for example.  The response to acute stress is actually helpful - it gets us ready to deal with the situation we face.  This is a survival instinct we have retained for times of emergency and the response poses no threat to our health itself - though the cause of the stress might!


Chronic stress refers to ongoing stressful events, or events which repeat regularly.  This type of stress can be immensely damaging to our health.

One of the reasons for this is that chronic stress causes the levels of a hormone called cortisol to increase. Cortisol is linked to many of the health problems mentioned above, but also is involved in regulating our energy levels, our sleep, and can even change our body shapes - more cortisol can mean more fat storage around your middle! There is now conclusive evidence that this actually changes our physiology, encourages our bodies to store fat and makes it harder to shift when we try to.


In fact it's double trouble. When we are stressed many of us (we do it too!) turn to unhealthy foods and/or alcohol as a coping or comfort mechanism compounding the effects of chronic stress. We are also much more likely to skip our exercise sessions as we're “too busy” or “too tired”.  Then we'll work late, not get enough sleep, drink more coffee, eat more sugar and feel even more stressed.  It really feels like a vicious circle sometimes!

“But I lose weight when I'm stressed?”

We are all different. Some people respond to stress by not eating or obsessive exercising, causing them to lose weight. This is not healthy either and even though some of us may lose weight at such times, it is often our muscle mass that is wasting away. We may actually still be gaining fat internally which is of course detrimental to long-term health.


For these reasons stress has become one of the greatest challenges to health and wellbeing in the 21st century. If chronic stress is a problem for you it is important that any programme you implement looks beyond just the exercise you do and your diet. 


That's why at Motus, part of your consultation will focus exclusively on stress. The first step is to notice the effects it has upon you. On our 30 Day programme you will create an action plan aimed at managing stress levels and reducing the harmful effects as well as giving you better health, more consistency, more energy and a stronger mindset.


Interested? Apply now: https://motustraining.lpages.co/30-day-programme/

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