Stress is a big one.  There are many types of stressors from external ones and internal ones.  For example, family pressures like children, work and money are external stressors.  Internal stressors might be our judgement or ourselves, high expectations and fears about the future.

When our body is under significant stress, whether it be external or internal, our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol.  This is a really important hormone and it normally fluctuates during the day.  It normally plays the role of making us feel awake, releasing sugar into the blood and preparing ourselves for the day’s activities.  However when cortisol is released constantly because of stress then it has lots of negative effects. One of these is it stimulates our appetite for high-calorie foods like fat and sugar.  It is like the body is looking for some comfort or safety so it is forcing you to seek high-calorie food that will increase your short-term survival chances and hence, in the bodies way, make you safer.  The problem is you put on weight and find it hard to control your cravings.  It is also likely that cortisol itself tends to create fatty tissue.

So there is stress, but there is also how we respond to stress.  Some people have very healthy ways of responding to the stressors of life like being physically active, meditation or talking to a friend.  But some of us do not and that is not really anyone’s fault, it may simply be that we never learnt how to manage stress.  Maybe the role models in our life didn’t know how to handle stress well and so we never learnt from them.

So whilst we sometimes cannot change our circumstances, we can have some control over how we respond to stress.  That will help reduce our cortisol which will reduce our appetites for unhealthy foods and make it much easier to lose weight.

There are so many ways we can learn to respond to stress.   I mentioned being physically active, meditation and speaking to someone like a friend or family.  But we can also practice writing it out and trying to understand the situation better, being creative like music or art or gardening, getting out into nature, breathing techniques, playing a game, having a sleep, eating something healthy, cooking – really there are so many ways.  If you are really struggling then it might be good to have a chat with your regular family doctor.

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