Why your diet may not be working - stress

How is your stress level?  Have you evaluated how you are feeling lately?  Sometimes I think it is hard to really tell the level of stress you have, as you run from thing to thing and simply try to make it through the day.  After finishing up my graduate work, getting the thesis 100% completed, edited, revised, and turned in for publication, I was able to take a break.  I knew I had been stressed with course work, moving, and various other things, but I didn't realize really how it was affecting me until I took a step back, and took a break.  

I started spending more time on things that helped me de-stress and feel better.  I started sleeping better, eating better, exercising more, and my energy level went sky high.  It was a very obvious indicator to me that I had not been dealing with my stress well and should have focused differently.  I had no idea how bad I had been feeling, until I started feeling good.  I recommend people evaluate their stress levels all the time, yet hadn't done it with myself!  Sometimes, with out a conscious effort, it is hard to tell how stressed you actually are, and what that stress is even influencing.  

If you are trying to lose weight, or simply be healthy, stress is not something you should take lightly!  It may seem like stress should lead to weight loss.  Anxiety makes us feel hungry and is exhausting.  Unfortunately, stress actually leads to weight gain.  Chronic stress that lasts over a period of months or even years, floods our body with cortisol.  

Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands, and is a steroid hormone.  When we first find ourselves under stress, cortisol quickly mobilizes carbohydrate and fat for quick energy (known common as that fight or flight response).  Once the initial stress has passed, cortisol then causes an increased appetite, because we need to replace the carbohydrate and fat that was used previously, while fighting or flighting. ( I think I just made up the word "flighting", but you know what I mean!)

However, for most of us we aren't fighting or flighting during times of stress.  This response was critical for cavemen, who were dealing with danger.  To hunt and kill the animal, or run away from it...that is the question...  We are suffering from stress from new sources, but still having the same response.  Most likely while sitting at a desk or at home.

Many of us are sedentary or minimally active.  So this means we are taking in more calories then we are expending and that leads to weight gain when our cortisol levels are high.  If this happens just once, it doesn't necessarily lead to any weight gain, but when the cycle continues for months or years, the extra calories can really add up.  You need to find a way that works for you to relax.  Reading a book, going on a walk, yoga, anything that helps you!  I recommend evaluating your stress level and sources, then making a list of ways that work for you to relax, and turn to those often, even when you aren't consciously feeling stressed.

What do you find works for you to help when you are stressed?  Share with others in the comments below!

Hope you got your daily dose of nutrition today.  Thanks for reading!  If you enjoy the blog, please share using the buttons below, or in the box to the right.  Also, we would love to have you join us!  Join this site in the "followers" box to the right.  "Like" the blog on facebook, and follow me on twitter (@jennasteprd) and pinterest using the the boxes on the right.  Thanks, and have a great day! ~jenna


  1. Jenna, I'm so impressed with your blog! I'm getting ready to start a nutrition blog of my own and might take some ideas from you, if that's ok (of course, always giving credit where credit is due!) Congrats on finishing your MDA. I'm taking it slow and should finish this next year. Who helped you set up your website? Are you good at hosting websites, or your husband?

    1. Thanks Karina! I'm very happy to be done with my MDA stuff, good luck as you finish up this next year! Of course you can, when you get going let me know so I link to yours as well! I set up this by myself, I have another website I did about 2 years ago, and that helped me learn a lot of what I needed for this. I used blogspot, and then set up the domain from there. It isn't too difficult, they have a lot of Q&A to help you out. I used webs to do my other site (it is nutritioncounseling.webs.com) that was pretty user friendly as well. Good Luck, let me know if I can help you!