Like most of us, you perhaps obsess about your food and exercise, – the behavioral choices you make – to mange your weight and health. However, stress has been proven and associated with weight gain, increased incidence and risk of cardio-metabolic diseases, inflammatory diseases like cancer, memory loss and pre-mature aging.Bad effects of Stress
An extensive Study (the INTERHEART study) of of 25,000 people across 52 countries has associated stress with serious increased risk of heart attack.
In recent study of 235 police officers, their perceived stress appreciably increased their risk (10-25%) of Metabolic Syndrome – a cluster of disease conditions associated with hypertension, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride ( blood fat) levels
The impact of stress seems to be magnified for overweight people when compared to people with normal weight. Astudy tracked 722 working women over 9 years to understand relationship between stress and obesity. The increase in Body Mass Index (BMI), a reliable measure of obesity and associated chronic disease risk, was correlated to job stress and the increase in risk was higher for women with higher BMI.
The way I look at it..even if you have the best car and you are great driver, but you are driving on a narrow, windy road, late at night thru snow and sleet you have higher risk of an accident. Your environment i.e Stress, is the overlooked environment factor that can quickly negate the best behavioral efforts thru food and exercise.
Humans are well designed to deal withacute stress i.e stress that is intense and lasts for a very short period e.g being attacked by a bee, chased by a rhino or avoid being hit by a car. Our primal programming injects hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, into our blood stream that spurs the required physical response to energize all parts of our body to fight or flee the short lived mortal danger/stress.
Today we are not hunters/gatherers… chances of being eaten by a tiger are remote. However, we sit in our cubicles or traffic and face a range of non-life threatening mental and emotional stress that lingers for a prolonged period. Most of the stress is caused by life style choices, busy professional life, family and financial matters. This is chronic stress. Unfortunately our body’s primal response continues to be the same as if it was an acute stress. The same hormones floating around in our body over long periods of time start creating havoc.
E.g. Stress generates hormones which cause our blood vessels to contract. Well it was originally designed to minimize blood loss in anticipation of a physical injury/attack by an animal. Today, those constricted vessels over an extended period of time show up as hypertension/increased blood pressure.
In primeval times, food /next meal was uncertain. Our bodies are designed to, thru a complex process of enzymes and hormones, convert all kinds of food and store as much of it as possible as fat for that uncertain food tomorrow or a long famine. (Fat is the most efficient way for the body to store energy ). Chronic stress causes these same hormones to be triggered, while eating, resulting in excessive fat storage vs fat burning. Excess fat starts creating inflammation in our body initiating its own chronic disease sequence.
While it may be impossible to eliminate stress in our life, I have created a buffer zone, thru simple rituals, between the daily crush of my life and when I eat. You can call it mindful eating. Many principles of mindful eating have been promoted in Ayurveda.
Stay Informed. Stay Healthy !