Stress and mental health are two interconnected aspects of our lives that can significantly impact our overall well-being. While their influence on mental health has long been recognized, recent research has shed light on their connection to another prevalent concern: weight gain.
When individuals experience chronic stress, their bodies undergo various physiological changes. Stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with the body’s natural fight-or-flight response. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to increased appetite, particularly for calorie-dense and high-fat foods.
Furthermore, stress can disrupt normal sleep patterns, resulting in sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation alters the production of ghrelin and leptin, hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety, respectively. Consequently, individuals may experience an increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods, leading to weight gain over time.
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Moreover, stress often triggers emotional eating as a coping mechanism. People under stress may seek comfort in food as it can provide temporary relief from negative emotions. This behavior, commonly known as “stress eating” or “emotional eating,” often involves consuming calorie-rich and nutritionally poor foods. Repeated instances of stress eating can contribute to weight gain and the development of unhealthy eating patterns.
Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director, and Head – Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket explains how stress and mental health contribute to weight gain.
How Do Stress And Mental Health Problems Contribute To Weight Gain?
Dr Malhotra explains, “Excessive Stress or distress is associated with changes in the Neurochemicals, hormones, and immune system. Under Significant Stress, there is overstimulation of Hypothalamic- pituitary- Adrenal axis.”
Dr Malhotra further explains that in certain states of depression: carbohydrate craving and weight gain happens.
In A Depressed State: Lethargy and lack of exercise also contribute to weight gain. At times lower functioning of the thyroid also adds to weight gain.
During Manic Excitement: There is an increased desire for a variety of food and increased food intake and resultant weight concern.
The impact of mental health on weight gain is multifaceted. Conditions such as depression and anxiety can disrupt an individual’s motivation, energy levels, and overall self-care routines. Engaging in physical activity and maintaining a balanced diet may become challenging, leading to decreased physical fitness and weight gain.
Strategies To Manage Weight Gain
Engaging in physical activity and maintaining a balanced diet may become challenging, leading to decreased physical fitness and weight gain.
Strategies such as stress management techniques, therapy, regular exercise, and healthy eating habits can be beneficial. By effectively managing stress and prioritizing mental well-being, individuals can reduce the likelihood of weight gain and foster a healthier lifestyle overall.
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