Feeding on Fear: 5 Real Ways Stress Affects Your Energy and Metabolism

I am completely fascinated by stress, especially by how it impacts the body and our health. Recently I had the opportunity to ask my friend Debi Silber about just that. Debi is widely known as The Mojo Coach. She's led thousands of women to achieve their ultimate body, mind, image, and lifestyle, inspiring them to "get their mojo back" and helping them transform into their personal and professional best. She is also incredibly kind, generous, spunky, and has arms that would make even Michelle Obama jealous.

Debi knows about this topic personally, because at one time in her life stress took an enormous toll on her own health. She has learned first-hand the importance of managing stress for maintaining our health and our weight. Here, in her words, is a description of the impact that stress has on energy and metabolism, as well as some ways to overcome it:

Sometimes I feel like I am running on adrenaline when I am under stress. Then when it is over, I crash. Why does it seem like stress is so exhausting? Stress impacts the body physically, mentally, and emotionally. It lowers energy because when we're in a chronic state of stress, we exhaust our adrenal glands, which produce cortisol - or the stress hormone. When the adrenals continuously secrete cortisol in response to our perceived stress, at first we have lots of energy, then we're "tired and wired," and eventually just exhausted. Cortisol levels peak, and then eventually over time, tank, leaving us as exhausted as our adrenals.

Let's face it. Stress never really goes away. When one situation ends it seems that another arises. So does getting our mojo back have more to do with alleviating stress, or working around it? It has so much to do with managing our stress more effectively. Stress lessens when we become more proactive vs. reactive. To alleviate our stress is great -- it is always helpful to see what you can do to reduce it, like limiting or eliminating your time with toxic people, stopping something that's stressful for you, delegating more, etc. When we're unable to do that, it's best to find a healthy way of managing stress, which can mean becoming proactive, changing our outlook and perspective. It's like watching two people in traffic. It's the same thing for both, but one is banging on the steering wheel and drowning in a sea of stress hormones, and the other is enjoying music and having quiet time. I can assure you that the one who's found a healthier way to handle stress is healthier in many ways.

Related: The 5 WORST foods for weight loss

How do you go about getting your clients started on a plan to weight loss and better health? It's always easiest to start with nutrition first because it's the least personal and will show quick results, giving them a boost to their confidence and self esteem. They begin to see directly how their choices create better results. A thorough assessment of their lifestyle shows what's at the root of why they're not looking or feeling their best. Often it's a food addiction, sleep issues, toxic relationships, or a lifestyle that's gotten out of hand and isn't in line with their values, priorities, and what's best for their needs. Depending on their greatest obstacle, I'll work with them to create a strategy to overcome it, so they see immediate results and gain the confidence to keep going. I push them, but I know their best life is waiting right outside their comfort zone, so I take their hand and walk them right through it.

Why does it seem to be so darn difficult to maintain a comfortable body weight when we are under stress? Here's why it's so difficult to maintain a comfortable body weight when under stress:

1. Thyroid

A suppressed thyroid lowers your metabolism. Stress suppresses the thyroid, which then impacts metabolism and weight. So often we think we have a sluggish metabolism and take medication for it, but the thyroid is suppressed as a result of chronic, unmanaged stress.

2. Neurotransmitters

When we're stressed, we are looking for a hit of 2 neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin gives us that feeling of peace and calm. Dopamine signals the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. We get a blast of these neurotransmitters from sugar and carbs -- foods which are highly addictive, nutrient-void but very calorically dense.

3. Cortisol

We're flooding our bodies with cortisol -- the stress hormone. Cortisol drives fat storage, especially around our middle.

4. Comfort foods

We look for comfort foods under stress. Not only do we look for these foods, we're looking for the soothing feeling we felt when these particular dishes were served up to us long ago. Those foods are typically loaded in calories.

5. Self medication

If we're emotional eaters, we eat under stress. Also, when we are consumed with our stress we simply may not take the time to make healthy choices, read labels, etc. Instead we use food to soothe, calm, numb, and relax from our problems and our pain. We self medicate and food is simply the drug of choice.

Please note that this post is intended to share information and ideas, as well as to create conversation. Please consult a medical professional before making changes to your lifestyle.

-By Jessica Cohen

For 20 little ways to de-stress throughout the day, visit Babble!

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