In our modern, fast-paced society, it’s easy to be under chronic stress and accept this feeling as normal. You may even believe a certain amount of this stressful, “under-pressure” feeling provides a necessary “push” to help you meet the demands you and others place on yourself.
But if you are trying to manage a healthy weight, the truth is that stress which goes on for long periods of time brings three strikes against you: Stress increases appetite, causes your body to hold on to fat, and sabotages your willpower. Let’s look at the underlying causes and what you can do about each of them.
You have likely heard of the “fight or flight” response. We inherited this survival mechanism from our ancestors who had to deal with actual life-threatening situations. When the presence of a threat is detected by the brain, a cascade of hormones is released, allowing the body to respond quickly and appropriately. These hormones, which include adrenaline, CRH and cortisol make your body more alert and ready for action. The problem is once the perceived threat is gone, if you haven’t had to defend yourself in some way, the hormones stay active in your body. The cortisol signals your body to replenish your energy with food. This leads to excess belly fat, and unfortunately, this fat increases inflammation in the body and makes you more likely to develop heart disease or diabetes.
Eating to Relieve Stress:
The adrenaline surge caused by your body’s fight or flight response is the reason you feel “wired up” when you become stressed. While you can alleviate some of this feeling with activities or busy work until your system calms down, the discomfort of this feeling can cause “emotional eating” as a way to quiet your body’s stress response.
Giving in to Cravings:
Biological and psychological factors can be at the root of your cravings for “comfort foods.” Cortisol can cause you to crave more fat and sugar, while feeling cheated or deprived can give you reason to give in and reward yourself with easy to eat, processed foods with high fat, sugar or salt contents.
Fatigue and Lack of Sleep:
Whether the reason for loss of precious sleep is from worry and insomnia, or staying out too late, studying for exams, or from drinking caffeinated beverages, not getting enough rest is a powerful influence for weight gain or loss. It seems the more tired we are, the more cravings for carbs sneaks in and erodes our willpower and ability to stay on track with our weight loss plan. Make getting enough sleep a cornerstone of your intentions for losing weight.
3 Top Tips for Your Weight Management Plan:
Exercise-The Magic Bullet: Aerobic exercise can decrease cortisol and facilitate the release of chemicals which relieve body pain and improve mood while it helps rev up your metabolism to burn off body fat.
Learn Mindful Eating: Mindful Eating changes your consciousness around eating and helps you cope with stress as you slow down and tune in to your sensory experience; the sight, texture or smell of your food. Rather than eating simply because it is mealtime or because there is food available, you begin to tune into your body and sense your subjective feelings of hunger or fullness.
Discover Ways to Alleviate Stress: Take a hike, read, do yoga, get a massage, write in a journal, spend time with your pet, or with friends and family to help to relieve stress. Plan ahead and give yourself permission to set aside some time for happiness and to enjoy life’s little moments! You’ll feel refreshed and think more clearly as you grow stronger in willpower to continue moving toward your weight management goal.