How Stress Helps Keep You Fat

and what to do about it...

We really don’t give ourselves enough credit, you know. We work really hard, each of us doing the very best we can with what we have at any given moment, and we still have a really hard time maintaining any kind of significant weight loss.

There are so many factors to consider, including body type, expectations, current fitness level, and more. But the one I encounter most often with my clients is stress.

Stress, as we know, comes in a few different forms. Acute Stress happens when we are faced with an immediate threat and our “fight-or-flight” response kicks in, making changes to our body to get us ready to bolt or fight for our lives. This is a short-term response to a short-term dangerous situation.

Chronic Stress happens when the perceived danger doesn’t go away. Imagine a tiger laying at your feet. You would be constantly on edge, not knowing if the tiger was going to get up and eat you or stay sleeping. Your body stays in a constant state of readiness. That readiness means that you are at high alert almost constantly. And that is exhausting. In that exhaustion, we can very easily begin to experience depression.

What is Stress?

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First of all, stress is not the thing, person, or event. Stress is how we react to the thing, person or event. To put it another way, the stress we feel is our physical and emotional reactions to events. Stress produces a physiological reaction in your body. When something happens the subconscious mind triggers the sympathetic nervous system, initiating our “fight or flight” response.

The fight-or-flight response can happen in the face of an imminent physical danger (such as encountering a growling dog during your morning jog) or as a result of a more psychological threat (such as preparing to give a big presentation at school or work). This reaction can include slowed digestion, shaking, tunnel vision, faster breathing and heart rate, dilation of pupils, and flushed skin.

The fight-or-flight response plays a critical role in how we deal with stress and danger in our environment. Essentially, the response prepares the body to either fight or flee the threat. It is also important to note that the response can be triggered due to both real and imaginary threats.

By priming your body for action, you are better prepared to perform under pressure. The stress created by the situation can actually be helpful, making it more likely that you will cope effectively with the threat. This type of stress can help you perform better in situations where you are under pressure to do well, such as at work or school. In cases where the threat is life-threatening, the fight-or-flight response can actually play a critical role in your survival. By gearing you up to fight or flee, the fight-or-flight response makes it more likely that you will survive the danger.

More About Stress

There are three main types of stress: Acute, Episodic Acute, and Chronic Acute.

Acute stress

Acute stress is the most common form and is the result of recent or anticipated stressors. Acute stress can be both positive and negative. For example, the excitement before a fun event is a type of positive acute stress. Getting into a car accident is negative acute stress. As long as the acute stress doesn’t last for extended periods or occur too frequently, there is nothing wrong with suffering from acute stress. It happens to all of us, and it passes with time.

Episodic acute

Episodic acute stress is acute stress that occurs frequently. This is the kind of stress that continuously pops up in your life, sometimes in a pattern. It is accompanied by worry about things that are happening to you or around you. You might be especially prone to this type of frequent stress if you have a “type A” personality. People with this personality type often feel a sense of urgency and a need to get things done that might actually become overwhelming. Episodic acute stress is a recurring type of stress, happening over and over.

Chronic acute stress

Chronic acute stress can be thought of as never-ending stress that relentlessly wears away at you. If you cannot see an end to your stress, or if you are in a situation that makes you feel trapped, as if there is no way out, then you are likely to begin suffering from chronic stress. This type of stress will eventually begin to affect your health, and can lead to heart problems, strokes, and even cancer. Chronic stress definitely requires that you reach out for help.

What About Anxiety?

Anxiety is a general term that can cover several different types of disorders. All of them share the common symptoms of nervousness, worry, fear, and apprehension. Sometimes the emotional feelings can be so overwhelming that they create, or manifest, physical symptoms. People with anxiety often experience a rapid heartbeat, sweating, trouble sleeping, an inability to concentrate, shortness of breath, fidgeting, fatigue, and others.

What Does That Have To Do With Weight Loss??

When we are experiencing chronic stress, we have a lot of the same physical reactions as acute stress. Our breathing is faster and shallower, our digestion slows down, and we are a little foggy. Our bodies are using a lot of our resources to just maintain the stressed-out state, and there isn’t a lot left over for other things.

Because we are using all our energy to maintain our level of stress, we feel tired, heavy, and not very motivated. We also crave foods that don’t take a lot off energy to process, like sugars and carbohydrates. And we tend to eat in response to unpleasant emotions instead of just when we are hungry.

Great! How Do I Fix It?

The short answer is that you eat only when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and start moving more no matter how much you don’t feel like it. Eventually your mind and your body will let go of the way it is doing things now and your habits and behaviors will change.

It is entirely possible to create these changes in this way, and it takes a lot of vigilance and determination. Accountability coaches and personal trainers are great resources when creating change with this method.

And yes, there is a way to get to the change without fighting through your habits and behaviors.

The Role of Hypnosis

Hypnosis works in partnership with a healthy weight management plan by removing the subconscious motivations for keeping you trapped in unhealthy behaviors, such as eating in response to emotional distress. These hidden traps are why willpower alone is so often ineffective.

Reprogramming your response so that you’re not reaching for food all the time is an effective way to regain control of eating. The technique involved in hypnosis not only helps you understand why you want to eat when you’re not hungry, but also how you can easily switch to behavior that is better for you.

Here are some ways that hypnosis addresses subconscious behaviors and leads to sustainable weight loss.

Provides insight into what is really going on

We act on beliefs and habits that are stored in our subconscious without even realizing it. Hypnosis helps you to tap into the subconscious mind for insights into what is really keeping you from having a healthy relationship with food.

Removes connections between emotions and eating

Hypnosis brings some understanding to the role emotions have in your life. Once you have a better understanding, you can release the hurtful emotions that may be holding you back. By discarding emotional baggage, you feel lighter, and you reduce emotional eating as you begin to feel in control of your life.

Creates a new default response

Hypnosis creates new pathways in your brain. If your go-to response for stress is to eat ice cream, you may have linked the feeling of stress with the response of eating ice cream and now it has become a well-worn path in your brain. In hypnosis, you work on removing the underlying cause of the stress and update your response to stress by changing that old habit to a new one. For instance, taking a deep breath in response to stress provides a relaxing alternative that doesn’t carry the hidden price tag of excess weight gain.

Accesses your inner abilities

By tapping into your own inherent power, you can actually see and hear things differently. For example, you can put food back into its proper category by seeing it as energy and nutrition for the body. You come to realize that the only one putting food in your mouth is you, and that you have all the control over your eating.

Re-imagines your future

Hypnosis gives you the ability to reprogram your subconscious mind toward the future you want. Imagine doing the activities that lead to weight loss, like grocery shopping for healthy food and eating healthy meals. See yourself as a smaller size and imagine walking around in your lighter body. Hypnosis lets you say to your subconscious mind, “This is the path we’re on! Be like This!” The change you want to achieve is programmed into and accepted by the subconscious mind, just like a blueprint, and you see results quickly.∎

Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life, contact Karen at, or (802) 566-0464.


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