For most of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, research reveals that it’s also something that makes us gain weight. “Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight or even add pounds,” says Dr. Peeke, author of Body for Life for Women.

Here’s what happens: Your body responds to all stress in exactly the same way. So every time you have a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This can make you very hungry. And your body keeps on pumping out that cortisol as long as the stress continues.

But few of us reach for an apple in these situations. Instead, we crave high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension. This soothing effect becomes addicting, so every time you’re anxious, you are more likely to want fattening foods.

Obviously, getting rid of all anxiety isn’t an option. But by take steps to beat stress, you can get your cortisol levels and your weight under control and improve your health.

What to do when under stress:

  • Exercise
  • Eat Slowly at meals
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Have a natural healthy snack
  • Cut back on caffeine
  • Eat a good breakfast
  • Go to bed at a time where you can get additional sleep
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