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Are Your Finances Making You Fat?
So we all know that stress isn’t good for our bodies. But what most people don’t know, is how unmanaged stress actually truly affects the body. One of the biggest unmanaged stressors in our lives, are our finances. This stress, daily worry, anxiety and constant negative thoughts that we replay over and over again about our finances, is affecting us mentally and physically, in ways that we normally would not connect.
When I went to school for holistic nutrition, not only did we study nutrients and how the food you eat affects your body, but we also studied how our stress affects our mental, emotional and physical health. I was completely blown away by what I learned.
Our bodies used to experience stress differently than we do now. It is used to experiencing physical stress, hard laborious work and fighting off predators and enemies. Most of these kinds of stressors are not in our lives anymore and if they are, they are at a very small extent. The stressors that we now experience are mostly mental and emotional. Worries about if we will be able to pay rent on time or our home taxes, whether we have enough money to fix our vehicle that’s broke down, etc.
Your Financial Stress is Chronic Stress on Your Body
Even though the types of stress that our body experiences are different, the way our body perceives stress and handles it, is the same. It still responds to those mental and emotional stresses, anxieties and worries, as it would to you running for your life away from a bear and this greatly affects how our hormones respond and function in our bodies and every other cell that is operating in our bodies. Your cortisol level rises, adrenaline starts flowing, your blood sugar levels rise (because it thinks you need that glucose to give you energy to fight or to flee) and your heart starts beating faster.
Thousands of years ago, you would experience these short bursts when you were in immediate danger, you would respond by doing something physical such as running or fighting and then as soon as you were out of harm’s way, your body would go back to the way it was supposed to function. But where the problem lies, is that when you are chronically mentally stressed, is that your body from being chronically stressed, doesn’t return back to normal like it was supposed to because it feels like the threat is still there. You didn’t do anything physical as a response to this stress and in turn, the stress hormones don’t know to stop and they continue.
Your body is still stressed and it is reacting to keep you alive because it believes this stress is physical, so it keeps your cortisol levels high. You need to have a nice flux but instead, it begins to look more like a flat line, not the high and not the low. When your cortisol levels are high for extended periods of time, it affects everything in your body in a negative way.
Financial Stress Causes Your Cortisol Levels to Stay Elevated
Cortisol levels are not supposed to be elevated for extended periods of time. Your cortisol levels are supposed to have a nice flux, which means that they are lowest when you are sleeping so you can sleep and then in the morning when you are about to wake up, they are highest, to help you wake up. When you are stressed all the time, instead of them being lower throughout the day so you can fall asleep, they stay more elevated and it makes it difficult for you to sleep. When you don’t get quality sleep and enough of it, that affects your hormones that control your appetite and guess what, you are more hungry when you haven’t had enough sleep and you are stressed. There are also certain hormones that operate when you are in a deep sleep that affects your muscle and fat levels in your body.
And when that nice cortisol flux starts to become more of a flatline, it signals your fat cells, to store more fat. Instead of telling it to burn that fat, it says to keep it and to put more fat in that area.
How Your Financial Stress Affects Your Blood Sugar Levels
It also affects your insulin and insulin responsiveness which means how well your insulin reacts in your body. When you have higher cortisol levels and lower testosterone, you can start to become more insulin resistant, that means that your body is not able to properly control your blood sugar levels. When you have good blood sugar regulation it is much easier to maintain a healthy weight.
When you have problems with your blood sugar management, highs and lows or crashes such as the afternoon slump, after you eat your lunch and then you feel tired between 2-4pm and like you need a nap, then you aren’t properly transferring those energy sources (your food) to where they need to be, which can begin insulin resistance, that is when you aren’t able to properly control your blood sugar levels. The effectiveness of your body to control your blood sugars and to utilize the food (energy) that is coming into your body properly, is paramount to managing a healthy weight.
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When you start to have problems with insulin resistance, it makes it much more difficult to control your weight.
When adrenaline and cortisol levels are higher in your body, they reduce other important hormones such as testosterone, which is what is important to help maintain and build muscle. And it is not healthy for your body to lose this important muscle mass as muscle mass actually helps to burn calories in your body and to raise your metabolism.
And when you are stressed about your finances and then your weight, that is just added stress to cause your cortisol to be thrown out of whack and cause the cascade of all your hormones to be affected.
Elevated Cortisol Levels Can Increase Your Appetite
When you have too much cortisol in your body though due to chronic stress such as that of your finances, one of the ways you are affected by chronically higher cortisol levels, is an increased appetite. The reason that this is, is because in the past after you fought or fled from that predator or threat, you would be exhausted and need to replenish yourself. So your body thinks that from this mental stress, that you need to replenish yourself by eating.
The problem is that you didn’t do anything physical. Sure the guy did who ran from a bear, he burned calories and needs to be replenished, but you were just sitting at your desk, in your car or making supper and you weren’t doing anything physical. And the fat that begins to develop from the stress and from your increased appetite, is most often, abdominal fat.
When we are stressed, our body does it’s best to reduce our pain because it wants to protect us, it wants to help us get out of harm’s way. So what happens, is we often begin to develop responses to these feelings of pain. When your body starts to do something over and over, what happens is that it strengthens those paths in the brains. As they become stronger, it takes less energy and effort for your body to turn to those responses. Our bodies are very efficient and our brain is efficient because there are so many things going on around us, any energy that it can save, is beneficial to it, so it turns to these well-traveled routes when situations come up. What this in turn affects, are our habits. Things become habits much easier.
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Think of it like this, as a kid your parents had to tell you over and over again, brush your teeth. Maybe you even have to do that with your children if you have any. And now that you are older, it is second nature, you just brush your teeth and you almost don’t even have to think about it.
It is the same as driving to work. You likely take the same drive to work every single day. You are used to it, it is much easier than your first day when you weren’t sure exactly how long it took to get there, to park and to make it into your work and get settled in time so you weren’t late. I bet when you drive now there are days where you zone out and say to yourself, wow, I honestly don’t remember those past five minutes. If that was your first day driving there, it would have taken so much more energy. But because you do it all the time, it is easy to almost become complacent as you have that path made very well in your brain, of how to get to and from work.
The Pain of Financial Stress Leads to Developed Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
When you are stressed about your finances, when you are worrying about how you are going to get your bills paid in time, your body often develops coping mechanisms to that pain that it is sensing in your body. Yesterday I said that our body perceives our mental stress the same as it does physical stress because that is how it was hardwired and it hasn’t evolved since then.
One of the most common coping mechanisms that you can develop, is stress eating. Because in that initial moment when you ate something, you may have felt pleasure, a sense of relief, like you could breathe. We all know that this is only for a brief moment and then you go into the feelings of guilt and why did I eat this. But as you do it a few times, it strengthens that pathway, so when it senses that fear when you are stressed about your finances, it begins to take that route more often, telling you to eat something because you will feel better.
How Financial Stress can Lead to Binge Eating
This can lead to stress eating or binge eating. Maybe grabbing something to eat on the way home from work, grabbing a snack from somewhere when something stressful at work happens, in the evening stress eating something you have in your home that you wouldn’t even eat anyways but it happens to be in your pantry so you eat it or you go to the store or somewhere to buy something to get you that feeling that you are craving. It is that initial feeling of dopamine, the feel-good hormone that you are chasing.
And then one day you wind up feeling like it is because you don’t have any willpower, like you aren’t motivated enough and just completely down on yourself. You might be doing this in secret. Maybe not a single other person knows that this is what you do when you are stressed, except for you. And then this cycle continues and it spirals more and more and you feel like your entire life is out of control because you can’t control your eating and your mind and you are anxious when you think about food.
And then you look in the mirror and see how your body has changed due to the stress and the excess amount of calories that you have eaten when you were stressed and you feel like, what happened to me? You feel ashamed, embarrassed and honestly scared because you don’t know if it is ever going to end. You feel like you have tried everything but the cycle comes back to haunt you.
How to Overcome these Coping Mechanisms from Underlying Financial Stress
The problem is not about the food. It is not the solution, it only makes it worse. The solution is addressing the real problem. It is not truly about the food itself, it is that the food is the coping mechanism that you have developed, due to not addressing the true issue.
When you address what is bothering you most, the pain and stress of your finances, that is when the light appears at the end of the very long and dark tunnel.
You speaking your truth about how it is making you feel is the first step.
Say it out loud to someone you trust, write it down, talk to a counselor, but get those words out.
Then decide what it is you are going to do to address the real concern.
What is just 1-2 things that you can do right now to improve this situation?
Is it talking to your significant other and being 110% completely honest and open like you never have before, expressing how the lack of communication and the lack of planning with your finances, is eating you from the inside out and affecting your eating habits. Here is a post I wrote about How to Improve Communicating with Your Partner About Money.
What I have learned is that you need to be completely honest when you are opening up about it. If it is killing you inside, you need to say it. You need to honor your truth. Otherwise, the other person or other people may not understand. If their body has not adapted to cope with stress as yours has, they are honestly and truly, not going to understand that you feel like you are fighting a demon, every single day, that you afraid to be in your own body. You need to let them know what you are actually experiencing.
I often hear many women who say that their significant other is not on board or that they won’t communicate about money. I want you to ask yourself this question and answer it honestly, “Have I been completely open and honest about how this situation is affecting me? How it causes me to feel this way that I do? How I need their support to get through this really tough time that I am going through and that means, dealing with the actual problem, which is not that I turn to food, but my or our struggling financial situation.”
I want you to really think about that.
When you are open, honest and explain to what extent your finances are affecting you, your health and your body, it makes it a lot easier to communicate about your finances. And if you don’t have a significant other, this is admitting to yourself that your finances are at the point where you NEED to take action because it isn’t just about your finances anymore, it is about your mental and physical health. It is about something that is much deeper that is causing you to feel like it is eating away at you.
Are you struggling with feeling like your finances are affecting your eating habits and your weight? I really hope that my insight into the connection between them was helpful to you in this struggle.
I know how you feel. I struggled with binge eating when I was stressed for much too long. I was so embarrassed, ashamed and honestly, so scared to open up about it. I didn’t know how. Back then, people weren’t talking about stress or binge eating and they most definitely weren’t talking about it in regards to your finances.
I felt so alone and it was a terrible feeling. I would look in the mirror and not even recognize myself, physically or mentally. I began to lose sight of who I was and I absolutely hated myself.
It definitely affected my finances because of the additional money that I was spending on food. I know some women who have spent an additional $300-$800 a month in groceries because of stress eating, it really does hold you back financially.
I was so incredibly lost and hopeless until I started to work with a coach about it and I opened up about the true reasons why I stress eating, it was due to my perceived financial situation. When I opened up to her I felt like I lost 30lbs because of that secret I had been carrying around for so long. And then after I opened up about it and talked to others in my life to let them know honestly what I was going through, then my eating habits began to change and I wasn’t turning to food when I was stressed. I lost the weight that I had put on and my abdominal area went back to how I looked before. If it wasn’t for my coach that I worked with, I would have been in that same dark place, still struggling. I also was saving a lot of money each month on food, which made my finances improve.
When you are honest about it to yourself and those around you, it makes the decisions about what to do next, clear.
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I hate when people say stress less because that helps no one. I am going to share some ways to counteract what we just talked about:
- Open up about how you feel about your financial situation. Getting it out of your body instead of letting it eat away at you from inside. Journal it out, talk to your significant other, to family, a counselor or a financial coach. But I don’t want you to complain, I want you to say how you feel because it begins with admitting how you feel on the inside and saying it out loud. I don’t want you to stay there in that pain and worrying, I want you to take action next.
- Start journaling out when you are stressed to continue to move that negative energy through your body.
- Then decide what actions are you going to take.
- Are you going to start reading books about money (Here is a list of my favorite money management books)
- Are you going to watch someone’s video trainings about money (I have done a lot of live trainings inside of my free women’s Facebook group Confident Everyday Money)
- You can work with a coach who will be able to give you the step by step actions to improve your finances so much quicker, who is non-judgmental and who has been through this themselves and overcame it. I am a financial coach and I would love to help you overcome your struggles as I have been in your shoes. I know what it feels like to have my mental and physical body affected because of my financial stress. If you want to learn more about how I can help you with your finances to transform other areas of your life, click here to read more.
- When you are feeling stressed, do something physical, get up and go for a walk, go for a jog, go to the gym, do something, to help reduce those stress hormones and to help your body get back on track.
- I also use a happy light in the mornings to help with my energy levels, I use it for about 30-45 minutes.
Other Content You May Find Helpful:
- 11 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
- How I Saved $50,000+ so I Could Leave My 6 Figure Career
- How I Made Over $9000 Just by Selling Things I Already Had in My House
- How to Make Saving Automatic & Easy
- How to Plan Your Finances for an Entire Year (in under a couple of hours)
Do you want to finally feel confident in how you are managing your everyday finances? Click here to download my free checklist!
I am very active on Instagram, follow me here for more financial tips & tricks: http://instagram.com/mandyythomas (@mandyythomas)
Do you have any questions or anything to add? Leave me a comment in the comments below and I will respond back to you!