Men, Stress and Weight Gain


stress1Not surprising, several hormonal imbalances come into play when men experience weight gain so it only makes sense then if these hormones were balanced again it would have a huge impact on weight loss.

Stress is, without a doubt, a way of life in the 21st Century. Although an immediate response to acute stress is usually a temporary loss of appetite, chronic stress is another story altogether.

According to Elissa Epel, PhD, assistant professor Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Ca. at San Francisco, “Chronic stress can be tied to an increase in appetite – and stress-induced weight gain.”

These responses go back in time when they served a much needed purpose, protected us and allowed us to survive. Even though the causes of stress are different today (we rarely need to fight off any animals), they still activate the same hormones whenever threatened.

Adrenlin and corticotrophin (CRH), two other hormones, are also released when stressed but these two hormones decrease appetite initially…unfortunately the effects usually don’t last long. Cortisol on the other hand remains longer because it is supposed to balance things out and replenish the body after stress has passed.

Extended periods of heightened cortisol levels cause the body to go into survival mode and induce the production of fat cells and the decline of metabolism in order to store food for later use.

Cortisol increases appetite to fuel the body for “fight or flight” and male weight gain is the result. To make things even worse, the fuel that the muscles demands during “fight or flight” mode is sugar…a big reason that carbohydrates are craved when stressed.

In other words, your neuro-endocrine system still responds to stress by sending out a hormonal signal to replenish your nutritional stores…and this in turn causes you to feel hungry and reach for those carbs.

Bottom line is this: stress brings on high cortisol levels and weight gain in men is directly affected by cortisol levels in the body. High cortisol coupled with low testosterone increases body fat, visceral fat, around the midsection and decreases muscle mass in men. This type of body fat complicates the sensitive hormonal imbalance even more by converting testosterone into estrogen.

Visceral fat around the midsection is also linked to an increase in both heart disease and diabetes.

The combination of more weight and less muscles to carry it with also results in low energy and fatigue.

It’s convenient to point the finger out and blame stress alone for weight gain but enough chronic stress can cause these “eating” habits to become learned eating habits. Eating becomes the go to activity whenever stress hits because it’s easy to do and comforting and unfortunately becomes a behavioral response that repeats itself anytime this same type of feeling occurs.

There are ways to break these hormone induced eating habits. Eating a balanced diet and getting enough quality rest are important for sure but exercise is the best one. Moving your body…especially if challenged produces a cascade of biochemicals, some that counter the negative effects of stress hormones. But be cautious because over-exercising can also raise cortisol levels and increase stress so it’s important to choose an activity you enjoy doing and keep the workouts to a length that doesn’t exhaust you.

Stress isn’t effecting just body composition…it also influences your heart-health and your psychological health so its ultimately important that you are doing your part to control your stress levels. Take a walk, call a friend, write a journal…learn what stress technique works best for you and do it.

“Strong Men Stay Young” is my comprehensive program created for men that covers everything from diet, to fitness to hormone balance. Can you really afford to wait another day or is today the day you finally take the bull by the horns and do something about it?

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