The model of weight gain that most people are familiar with has to do with consuming too many calories.
You hear it all the time, “don’t eat that or you’ll get fat” or “if you don’t exercise, you’re going to gain weight.” The foods we eat or lack of exercise are most commonly associated with gaining weight.
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You would be hard pressed to find someone saying, “You better calm down or you’re never going to lose all that weight.” But the truth is that stress can and does make you fat.
Though consuming too many calories is the model of gaining weight, this model is still relevant for us when we talk about stress, but stress adds a twist to this.
When we are under stress, especially prolonged stress (physical, emotional or environmental) our body’s chemistry is changed. This change leads to unhealthy cravings for sweet and salty foods.
Why Salty and Sweet?
Modern humans have come up with new and unique ways of stressing themselves out. In the past, major stressors consisted of events such as food shortage, illness, pregnancy/child rearing, physical work, exposure to the elements and war.
These events typically weren’t everyday experiences and our response was straightforward. Also, these events ended and we had time to recover. This is in addition to the fact that people in the past were very physically active.
Today we have traffic, cell phones, deadlines, noise pollution, picking the children up from school, degenerative diseases, loneliness, depression, war without end and each other to stress over.
Physically we are not adapted to deal with all of this daily stress. Add to that, the fact that many people today are physically inactive and have poor diets and this is nothing less than a recipe for an expanding waistline.
Instead of reducing stressors, using stress reducing techniques or changing our response to stress (reframing), the tendency is to keep going and to self medicate using food. But why food?
The adrenal glands are responsible for our ability to adapt and cope with stress, but when we over burden them, they want a pick me up. Salt feeds the adrenal glands and sugar whips them (as does caffeine).
These foods are the whip and the adrenal glands are the horse. This will keep a person going for a while, but these food cravings and the body’s own chemistry won’t only cause weight gain, but it can also cause all types of health issues as well.
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