There are many people who struggle with weight control. Over-weight and underweight are both considered as problems and may make a person to feel uncomfortable. Psychologists recognize that weight issues are some of the factors that disturb many adults. People would do many things and spend large amounts of money to control their weight but in most cases this is not always an easy task. This paper investigates stress as a challenge that people face in their efforts to attain their desired weight. It looks at mainly the citizens of the United States of America and how stress affects their weight control. The paper covers research works done on the similar subject. The paper incorporates case studies and survey methods used by other research works to come up with conclusion. The findings of this paper show that stress has great impact on weight control. The researcher concludes that effective stress management is very crucial for positive results in weight control
Keywords: stress, anxiety, sleeps deprivation, weight gain, and weight loss
Effects of Stress on Weight Control
An increasing number of people are battling with overweight and obesity and related health issues globally. The process of losing weight is very tasking and many people usually give up. However, the rewards of weight control are numerous including improved health. This paper will highlight how stress is considered a challenge that hinders people’s efforts to control their weight.
Stress-Related Eating Disorder
Majority of adults in developed countries such as United States and United Kingdom are over-weight or obese. This condition makes them vulnerable to weight related illnesses such as heart disorders, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Research shows that many people tend to eat foodstuffs with high levels of calories when they are stressed (Groesz et al., 2012). This is also connected to the fact that when people are stressed, the body stores more fat compared to when a person is relaxed.
Many adults have openly admitted to being involved in unhealthy eating habits due to stress. They later end up feeling lazy and hating their bodies leading to low self-esteem. Overeating and unhealthy foods are used by some people as means of distracting them from the stressful situations they are facing in life. When stressed, many people yearn for ‘comfort meals” such as ice cream and chips. It is easy for a stressed person to drive to a fast food joint instead of cooking food at home. The stressful life in urban areas marked by long working hours and little time for physical exercise and socialization makes it even harder to go home in the evening to cook.
Many people when stressed would lie awake at night worrying about how they will overcome the challenges they are facing. A survey carried out by Psychological Association (APA) on stress in America showed that more than 40 per cent of Americans lie awake due to stress. People would lose sleep completely or even sleep late due to worries they have because their minds refuse to switch off and remain overactive (Markwald et al., 2013). Decreased blood sugar which comes as a result of stress lead to fatigue and people who drink coffee to stay awake or alcohol to feel better leads to even more sleep disruption.
Lack of sleep is more likely to disturb the normal operation of leptin and ghrelin; the chemicals regulating appetite. When one interferes with the functioning of these chemicals, then they start craving for carbs. Lack of enough sleep also reduces a person’s self-control and their ability to oppose cravings and temptation goes down.
Sleep deficiency also leads to increased production of cortisol. Cortisol is a strain hormone and is known to increase a person’s appetite (Lucassen et al., 2013). This makes people to reach out for the food they are well aware of as bad for their health. Lack of sleep causes the body to switch to survival mode. The body mistake sleep deprivation for danger and body metabolism slows down as the body makes all effort to maintain its resources until the danger goes away.
The vicious cycle caused by less sleep causes more stress the following day. Lack of sleep would make one to be mood less and when this combines with stress the situation becomes worse. Having enough sleep is pointed out by experts as the first step towards weight control, but stress interferes with normal sleep patterns by causing the victims to sleep less or lose sleep completely.
Stress does not only cause increase of weight, but can also lead to loss of weigh. When stress continues for a long time, it causes anxiety on its victims. Anxiety makes people to have abdominal pain, lose appetite and feel that they are full immediately they start to eat (Fabricatore et al., 2011). Others may completely forget to eat because they have other things to think about and in the process they skip meals. At this stage people are advised to visit health professionals because they are at the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies could cause serious consequences on the life of an individual as they increase anxiety levels and affect the health of a person.
Even under stressful conditions, it is important to eat healthy food and engage in physical exercises. Stress is undeniable part of life and therefore individuals should learn to cope with it. Proper management of stress could have less effect on an individual’s effort to control weight. Exercise should be adopted as one of the ways to counter stress hormones that interfere with progress of weight control. One should remember to eat balanced diet and avoid indulging in eating unhealthy foods which can lead to weight gain (Creagan, 2014). When the condition is very serious then it is recommended that individuals should ask a friend or a family member to prepare for them a well balanced meal. Good serving of food is not only fit for the body, but will also ensure that the mind remains healthy.
Enough sleep is very vital for proper weight control. People with sleep problems should request specialized help from competent health specialists. Activities that might lead to loss of sleep such as drinking alcohol and coffee should be avoided during stressful periods.
Creagan. E. (2014). How do I control stress-induced weight gain? Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
Fabricatore, A. N., Wadden, T. A., Higginbotham, A. J., Faulconbridge, L. F., Nguyen, A. M., Heymsfield, S. B., & Faith, M. S. (2011). Intentional weight loss and changes in symptoms of depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Obesity, 35(11), 1363-1376.
Groesz, L. M., McCoy, S., Carl, J., Saslow, L., Stewart, J., Adler, N., & Epel, E. (2012). What is eating you? Stress and the drive to eat. Appetite, 58(2), 717-721.
Lucassen, E. A., Zhao, X., Rother, K. I., Mattingly, M. S., Courville, A. B., de Jonge, L., … & Sleep Extension Study Group. (2013). Evening chronotype is associated with changes in eating behavior, more sleep apnea, and increased stress hormones in short sleeping obese individuals. PLoS One, 8(3), e56519.
Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, K. P. (2013). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(14), 5695-5700.