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Can Elevated Stress Be At The Root Of Your Weight Gain? | Affinity Health

Leading medical insurance providers in SA, Affinity Health looks at the link between stress and weight gain – and how you can manage your stress levels.


We can all agree that stress negatively affects health and wellbeing, but is stress also at the root of your weight gain? It could be your demanding boss, morning traffic, or issues with a friend or family member. Whatever the reason, you likely deal with stress daily.


In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a hefty dose of uncertainty and unfamiliarity – adding to stress levels. While stress in short bursts is a normal reaction in the body when changes occur, high stress levels can result in elevated cortisol levels, leading to weight gain.


What is Cortisol and How Does it Work?

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands on your kidneys and released when you are stressed. This causes your body to go into fight-or-flight mode, halting normal biological operations and reducing your metabolism. While this hormone is necessary for your health and wellbeing, too much of it can be harmful.


Why does Cortisol Lead to Weight Gain?

Cortisol helps you feel more energised by boosting fat and carbohydrate metabolism. The downside of this is that it will also make you feel hungry.


High cortisol levels may also cause sweet, fatty, and salty food cravings. As a result, you’re more inclined to reach for cookies or mac & cheese instead of a salad or a banana. That’s why they’re referred to as “comfort foods”.


Cortisol overabundance might also cause your body to create less testosterone. This can lead to a loss of muscle mass and reduce the number of calories your body burns.

Long-term Health Effects Of Weight Gain

Carrying additional kilos can lead to a variety of other, more serious issues, including:
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Reproductive problems
  • A decrease in lung and respiratory function
  • An increase in joint pain


Excess weight gain has also been linked to pancreatic cancer, oesophageal cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and kidney cancer.


Finally, your mental health could be jeopardized. When you gain weight accidentally, you may experience an increase in worry or despair.


“If you believe your weight has increased as a result of stress, start practicing some healthy behaviours that will help you get back to your previous self. Eat well, exercise regularly, and do things that make you feel relaxed and happy,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

7 Tips To Better Manage Your Stress

You can’t prevent stress, but you can keep it from overwhelming you. Affinity Health provides the following tips:
  1. If you’re starting to feel stressed, start moving. Endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, are released as a result of exercise, and can help you feel more relaxed.
  2. Do something you enjoy, whether it’s drawing, painting, knitting, baking, scrapbooking, gardening, or simply listening to your favourite song.
  3. At the end of each day, take a moment to concentrate on what you’ve accomplished rather than what you haven’t.
  4. Keeping a journal can help you release bad thoughts from your mind. You might even come up with a solution you hadn’t considered before as you write.
  5. Try meditating or doing yoga or tai chi to practice mindful breathing. Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen in your body, which aids in the burning of the excess fat that has accumulated in your body.
  6. Spend time with family and friends. Having someone to talk to or lean on is always beneficial.
  7. Make certain you’re getting enough rest. Sleep is a great way to de-stress. A regular sleep pattern helps the body relax and repair, improves focus, regulates mood, and sharpens judgment and decision-making abilities. You’re a better problem solver and can handle stress better when you’re well-rested.

Sometimes stress can be too much to handle on your own. Your healthcare professional can assess stress-related symptoms if you have chronic stress.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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