If there is one major aspect of modern life that negatively affects the health of more people than just about anything else it is stress. Stress is also a big factor in weight gain, as we shall see in this post. So it makes sense to take the necessary steps to reduce stress in your life if you want to enjoy good health and also maintain a healthy body weight.

Stress is a natural response to anything that threatens us, better known as the “fight or flight” response. When we are faced with a situation that we need to take immediate action to avert a physical threat to ourselves, our bodies do some pretty powerful things. Adrenalin is released into the blood stream to give us a sudden rush of energy which we may use to either stand and fight off whatever it is that is threatening our life, or so that we may run away (take flight) if in our split second decision we decide the threat is too powerful to be fought and to preserve ourselves, running in the opposite direction at top speed is the best course of action.

This scenario is a historical program we all carry and is left over from the period in our evolution before we had civilization as we know it today and the lawlessness of the time meant that to survive we had to do whatever was necessary. Today, of course we have civilized laws and social rules that generally precludes the need for this stress response, but it is still there. So whenever we are placed in a situation that historically we would benefit from the sudden adrenalin release, our own social structure prevents us from using it.

For instance, we may be facing our boss who is lecturing us on a costly mistake we just made and it is making us feel really bad. What is going on inside is we are surging with adrenalin and what we really want to do is either run away from the boss or pick up a chair and brain him with it! Of course we can’t do either, so we have to stand or sit there in a high state of stress. The stress is not abated by the “fight of flight response” which would expend a great deal of energy rapidly and dispel the adrenalin coursing through our veins. So we have all this adrenalin running amok inside us with nowhere to go.

Stress hormones such as cortisol are also released in these situations and this sets up a daisy chain of physical events which cause inflammation and digestive suppression, leading to a greater percentage of undigested food being stored as fat. This is generally stored as visceral or belly fat, which is the dangerous kind that can lead to a whole host of bad health conditions such as heart disease, cancers, diabetes, hypertension and strokes.

The fat that is stored of course adds to our weight problems. When we are faced with many stressful situations throughout our day, the problems are multiplied and if not addressed, can lead to serious weight gain and obesity. The smart thing to do then, is to work on ways to reduce the stress in your life. Yoga, meditation, hypnosis, acupuncture and good old fashioned exercise are great ways to abate stress.

Exercise is probably the best of all from a body weight viewpoint, as it doubles as stress reliever and forces the muscles to burn stored fat when its done for sufficient time and level of activity. Strenuous exercise will dispel the adrenalin in your bloodstream the same way that fighting or running away would have done it for our ancestors. So as a means of losing weight, exercise has far more going for it than one may initially give it credit for. So next time you come home from work stressed out and grumpy, don’t throw yourself down in front to the TV, change into a track suit and go for a run, or get some weights and do a weight-training workout. You will benefit in more ways than you imagine.