The Link Between Stress + Weight Gain: My Epidemiological Perspective

One month ago my husband and I were preparing for an epic life change. He was preparing for his first overseas work trip, and while I was finishing up a taxing semester of classes at a local college we were arranging storage units, vehicle care, and all manner of other, tiny, incredibly important details before he shipped off and I moved back home with my parents. 

Yep. The plan was that, during the deployment, I would move from our home to my hometown in rural Arkansas, to return to my childhood home and my childhood room. It was a plan made to ensure that I would have a strong emotional support system nearby while also allowing our new little family of two to save some serious cash. 

So, let's go back to a month ago: my house in in shambles, half packed in (expensive) cardboard boxes, the other half on its way to either the thrift store or the storage unit. My husband was working and I was studying for finals, and all of our spare time was consumed with packing and planning - no beach time for us! 

I had little time to think about my fitness or my nutrition. I admit I was on autopilot, trying not to bust a fuse with all of the stress and relying a little too heavily on our favorite That take-out restaurant. I had been working out hard at my local CrossFit box for nearly six months prior in addition to eating really well (thanks, Paleo!), and I think that was the only thing keeping me running in this stressful time. 

Albeit, I gained some of what I like to call "stress flesh" around my midsection, but there was too much going on to give it a second thought. (Pause for a little self-love sermon: wouldn't it be great if we just breezed past our perceived imperfections like that all the time? Because really, we have better things to do than to obsess about our "flaws." Flaws that nobody else notices, by the way.)

But now, with two weeks of glorious pre-deployment vacation and two weeks of post-deployment home-dwelling under my belt, I'm noticing a smaller midsection and slimmer hips. It would be easy to say that I'm just sad that my best friend and husband is gone, and as such I'm obviously not eating. But if you know me, you also know that there isn't such a thing as "not eating" in my world. 

I attribute this unintentional slimming-down to a few key details: 

1) A simplified schedule - I don't have errands to run or a house to keep clean. I'm taking only a single class at a time this semester. I am going at a much slower pace and I like it.

2) Plenty of sleep - My childhood bed is hella comfortable.

3) Going slow - I've taken a month off of CrossFit, and instead have taken it easy with some long walks and gentle exercise with my parents at the local community center. 

4) Strategic evening snacks - Instead of giving into nighttime cravings for something sweet, I've been really enjoying a pre-bedtime ritual of a cup of hot tea. My favorite lately is anything by CocoaManna.

5) Plenty of love - My sweet parents, my family, my friends, and most importantly, my wonderful husband, have made me feel so supported in this time of transition. This spiritual and emotional sense of safety must have translated into a bodily sense of safety, such that the need to "hibernate" and hold onto excess resources is no longer necessary. (Maybe a little woo-woo but I like it.)

I don't have any studies to back this up, and if I had more time I would definitely research the link between stress, weight gain, and all of the factors listed above. I'll do that in due time, but for now I'm content with my body's resilience. We truly are amazing beings. 

What about you? Have you had any experience with changes in body composition during times of stress versus times of rest? Add your two cents to the comments section below.