We all experience daily stress, and the incorrect response to this stress can cause you to gain weight. Research shows that nearly 90 percent of overweight people are emotional eaters. They overeat as an incorrect response to stress. Not all stress is negative or harmful. We all experience healthy stress, known as eustress. The negative stress we experience is really distress. It is these feelings of distress that lead to emotional eating behavior.

Noted psychologist Richard Lazarus defines stress as:

"Any event in which the environmental demands, internal demands, or both tax or exceed the adaptive resources of an individual, social system, or tissue system."

Another leading physiologist of the 20th century, Hans Seyle, defines stress as:

"The nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it."

When we experience distress, our brain activates the "fight or flight" response. This response occurs when you perceive a threat to your well-being and control over your environment. This response can result in producing high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research from the National Institutes of Health has found that overproduction of cortisol is linked to obesity.

Cortisol is a stress hormone which regulates energy by distributing fat cells to hungry tissues such as working muscle. Overproduction of this hormone has been linked to obesity. High cortisol levels cause body fat to be stored in the abdomen. It moves fat from storage centers, and relocates it to deposits deep in the abdomen, resulting in excess belly fat. This is because the abdomen has higher blood flow and four times more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat stores.

Animal and human studies from Yale and the University of California show that cortisol may increase appetite, sugar cravings, and body fat. Cortisol binds receptors in your brain, causing you to crave foods high in sugar and fat.

Stress-induced obesity has been associated with several harmful health effects, including high blood pressure and hypoglycemia. Long-term effects of stress and weight gain can include heart disease and diabetes. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to deal with stress and correct these life-threatening problems. Walking for 45 minutes three times a week and taking 1,000-3,000 milligrams of fish oil daily is one of the most effective ways to manage stress levels and control your weight. Meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help increase your tolerance for stress and lower your cortisol levels.

5-HTP and GABA supplements are known to reduce stress. Clinical and laboratory research since the 1970s shows that 5-HTP is beneficial for depressed mood, nervousness, anxiety, and sleep disorders caused by stress. Studies from Japan's University of Shizuoka and Kyoto Women's University found that GABA supplements rapidly diminished the effects of anxiety.

Now that you know how stress and cortisol can cause you to gain weight, you need to incorporate a healthy diet lifestyle, get plenty of sleep, and make daily use of stress management methods such as nutritional supplements, walking, and meditation in order to effectively lose weight and keep it off forever. Good luck, you can do it!

Author's Bio: 

Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the website www.Natural-Remedies-for-Total-Health.com as part of the Global Peace Project Educational Outreach Program. You can also find him on The Total Health Blog.