Feeling stressed out can cause more than a headache or breakdown, it can also trigger weight gain. According to a 2013 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, over 40 percent of people report eating unhealthy foods or overeating in response to stress. You may have done it yourself after a long day at work that included a showdown with your boss, a flat tire and difficult customer. In an attempt to get a much-needed pick-me-up, you reach for that half-empty box of chocolates in the bottom of your desk drawer, or you stop at the drive-thru on the way home for a giant box of fries.

This is a common response to stress, and there is a good reason why – cortisol, the hormone released by the brain when we are stressed, triggers a ravenous hunger response. It may even interfere with the compounds that tell your brain when your hunger is satiated, leading to even more overeating.

Unfortunately, this response to stress can have unhealthy side effects, including weight gain. Cortisol doesn’t just make you hungry, but it also encourages the body to hold onto fat, particularly in the abdominal area.

Although you cannot control the body’s automatic, natural response to stress, you can make moves to limit stress in your life and relieve tension. Next time you are feeling stressed, try these strategies instead of reaching for an unhealthy snack:

Avoid Unnecessary Stress

It is impossible to avoid stress entirely, but you can limit it by learning how to say “no,” avoiding environments and people that cause you to stress out and cutting down your to-do list to just your top priorities.

Alter Stressful Situations

If you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to change it by expressing your feelings, being more assertive and being willing to compromise if necessary to find a common ground.

Find Healthy Ways to Cope

There are far more healthy ways to deal with stress than by downing a pint of ice cream. Next time you are on the verge of overeating due to stress, release healthy endorphins by going for a walk instead. Spending time outdoors can do wonders for your stress level, as can laughing with a friend, writing down your thoughts in a journal, unwinding with a massage, soaking in the tub or having a solo dance party in your kitchen. Get moving, connect with others and do something you love each and every day, no matter how stressed you are.

Learning healthy ways to cope with stress is one of the most important steps toward reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. To learn more about ways you can adopt healthy habits, check out our healthy weight loss programs today!

Image By: David Castillo Dominici

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