How do you minimize stress related weight gain?
What you will learn from this blog post:
Most common ways we respond to stress.
How cortisol overload affects our weight.
Four tips on how to manage your life and minimize stress.
The news is not what you expected and off you go to the next bar of chocolate or ice cream tub. Let’s face it, we have all been there at one time or another. Overeating or eating unhealthy foods in response to stress or to calm down is a very common response.
A survey conducted by American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America:” showed that a whopping 40% of respondents reported dealing with stress by overeating or eating unhealthy foods.
When we are chronically stressed, we crave “comfort foods,” such as a bag of potato chips or a tub of ice cream. These foods are easily accessible and easy to eat, highly processed, and high in fat, sugar, or salt. Anxiety and stress can also make you eat more “mindlessly” as you churn around worrying thoughts in your head, not even focusing on the taste of the food, how much you’ve eaten, or when you are feeling full. When you eat mindlessly, you will likely eat more, yet feel less satisfied.
Nevertheless, short bursts of stress may keep people vibrant and strong. Stress can also help boost fitness levels. For instance, weight lifting, running on the treadmill or riding exercise bikes are all stressors on the body. However, this is known as good stress. Regular exercise can help reduce the level of stress hormones or cortisol in the body, while concurrently enhancing endorphin levels, creating a healthy feel. Too much stress causes cortisol overload, which ultimately leads to obesity.
High levels of cortisol in the hair was found to be positively and significantly correlated to larger waist circumference and higher body mass index or BMI," said lead author Sarah Jackson, a research associate at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health at University College London. "These results provide consistent evidence that chronic stress is associated with higher levels of obesity."
Chronic or excessive cortisol can lead to increased insulin resistance, obesity, inflammation, muscle loss, and a host of other metabolic symptoms. Excess cortisol also slows down your metabolism.
What can we do to manage stress and minimize stress related weight gain?
Here are four tips on how to manage your life and minimize stress:
1. Simplify your life: Find a purpose in what you do. Do what really matters and don’t over stretch or overload your schedule. Slow and steady wins the race. Fast and chaotic lifestyle makes you stressed and sick. Set healthy boundaries. Stop stressing out over things you cannot control or things that do not even matter in the end whether in your personal or professional life.
2. Worry Less, Meditate More: Worrying can lead to feelings of high anxiety and even cause you to be physically ill. Research shows that worry is a major cause of insomnia. Our minds are overactive and won’t switch off. Stress causes decreased blood sugar, which leads to fatigue. Sleep is also a powerful factor influencing weight gain or loss. Lack of sleep may disrupt the functioning of ghrelin and leptin—chemicals that control appetite. Worrying about things you cannot control will not change the situation, meditating and reaching inside yourself for inner strength will empower you, and perhaps bring a different perspective to the situation.
3. Practice Mindful Eating: As you sit down to eat, take a moment to take a deep breath and give thanks for your food. Turn off distractions. Use this time as a chance to really think and connect with the food you are eating. If you spend your entire meal distracted, you will not even realize what you just ate and you will go looking for more. Eat with your five senses. Be completely present and allow your whole body to be a part of the experience, savoring every taste, smell, sight, feel and even sound of your food. Eat slowly and savor the taste of your food. Give yourself 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you have had enough.
4. Write in a Journal and track your progress: Journaling your lifestyle can give insight into what you’re feeling and highlight ways of thinking or expectations of yourself that may increase your self-awareness. Keep note of what you eat and drink, so you can identify roadblocks and eliminate bad habits.
Remember you are the only one that can identify and control what comes in and out of your life.
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