Stress, in its broadest sense, is a natural phenomenon of the human body. Stress can cause your body to lose or gain weight. How can this be so? Let’s look at the two basic types of stress.
Reactionary stress, commonly referred to as “fight-or-flight”, is a response similar to that of the rest of the animal kingdom. This type of stress is our body responding to a perceived threat. This can be a threat to your life, someone you love or a principle you value. Under this stress there is a rush of stress hormones in our body that sharpens our reflexes and greatly energizes our muscular system. You may have experienced this when walking past a house and seemingly out of nowhere a large dog barking ferociously charges the fence next to you. You pull back quickly and feel a warming sensation in your body. This is commonly referred to as an “adrenaline rush” caused by adrenaline and other stress hormones quickly released in your body.
Possibly you have heard of the almost unbelievable story of a parent lifting a car off of their child pinned underneath. This short-lived super strength is possible because of our body reacting to a perceived threat. It is the same reaction that allows military personnel to perform with heroism in combat situations.
For some, one of the small benefits of the fight-or-flight response to stress is weight loss. Stress hormones increase metabolism, burning fat for extra energy so you can react to the threat. In most instances this is a small and short-term loss.
Chronic stress is somewhat more subtle than that of the fight-or-flight response and certainly more prevalent in humans. Studies have found that chronic or prolonged levels of stress can lead to weight gain, and make it more difficult to lose weight.
The danger in chronic stress is your reactions to daily stresses are cumulative. For example, the stress of job quotas or school projects combined with social and financial issues can add up to a large amount of long-term stress. Unlike the fight-or-flight response where the body returns to normal when the threat is over, chronic stress produces a constant level of stress hormone activity. The level is lower than fight-or-flight, but the body never returns to normal under chronic stress. Because of this the body becomes at risk for various health problems, one of which can be weight gain and the inability to lose excess fat.
Our body is a marvelous system that strives to keep us safe and healthy. However, the body is somewhat restrained from keeping us healthy when we surrender to chronic stress. It is very important that we deal with the stresses of daily living that confront all of us.
Check out Your Body and Stress for more information and ways to relieve stress.
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