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Have you put on weight around your belly since lockdown began? If so, this might be due to stress.

When stressed you release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones mobilise your body, releasing fats and producing sugar (glucose) to fuel the fight or flight response.

Fighting or running away would have been a helpful, possibly lifesaving, response to the types of stresses that our distant ancestors faced. After the stress is over, adrenaline levels return to normal, but cortisol levels stay high for longer. High cortisol increases your appetite, particularly for high sugar high fat (calorific) foods. This helps your body replenish the energy stores that were used up by fighting or fleeing.

Many of the stresses we face these days, such as losing a job, finances or other concerns around coronavirus don’t evoke a physical response. It’s highly unlikely you will encounter a wild animal or have to fight or run for your life. Unfortunately, our bodies have not evolved to cope with modern day stresses. They still mobilise large amounts of fuel (sugar and fat) to enable the fight or flight response.

If you use this energy up with a physical response, you burn this fuel. If you do not respond physically, your body stores this fuel as fat around your abdomen. This is because your body is still on stress alert and storing fat abdominally means it is close to your liver. If another stressful situation occurs, your liver can quickly convert the fat back to energy.

One way you can help your body to deal with stress is by being physically active. Your body is designed to have a physical response to stress and running can help reduce stress and anxiety. If you do not feel able to go for a run, try taking a brisk walk when you are stressed. Alternatively you could put on some music and dance. It is important to do something that gets your body moving.

Note: If you have been under prolonged stress your adrenals can become exhausted and intense exercise will further deplete them. Instead try some simple stretches, yoga or a gentle walk. Delve deeper, try our ebook: Don’t let stress pile on the pounds. This will help you identify if your adrenals are exhausted. It will also help you support your body when stressed, so you are less likely to put on weight.

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