Last week we discussed how sleep can affect our ability to lose weight, this week I am focusing on how stress can negatively affect our weight in very similar ways. Feeling stressed out and overwhelmed can happen for a number of reasons; varying from eating the wrong food to the loss of a loved one. It’s important to observe how we are feeling; accepting why we are feeling this way and learning to manage it and move forward. People deal with things in different ways; this is interesting to observe how we emotionally feel about situations and how we deal with them. There is no right or wrong way, everyone is different. It’s important to say that at this point, never be afraid to ask for help. Reaching out and asking for help can be the first step to recovery.
Stress can significantly impact your ability to lose or maintain a healthy weight. This can be from high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), unhealthy stressed induced behaviours or a combination of the two. When you feel stressed, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline and as result of these two, glucose enters the bloodstream. It goes back to the cave man times and the fight or flight response. When your body feels like it’s in a risky situation it’s surges the body with glucose to give it the energy to get away. Only when we feel stressed, we are not going to use that sugar to ‘get away’ from the situation. Once we feel calmer, the adrenaline and your blood sugar spike wears off, cortisol kicks in again to replace that energy supply and cue those sugar cravings. Your body believes that that sugar will supply you with the quick energy you need and it’ll be the first food you reach for. The negative impact of consuming too much sugar is that your body tends to cling on to it, especially after stressful situations. It is normally stored in the form of abdominal or visceral fat, the fat stored around the vital organs. This cycle just goes round and round; get stressed, release cortisol, gain weight, crave sugar, eat more sugar, gain more weight. What if you don’t consume foods high in fat and sugar when you feel stressed? Your body will still release cortisol and cortisol slows down your metabolism making if difficult for you to metabolise your food and lose weight.
Stress Induced Unhealthy Habits
As well as the hormone changes related to stress, living through stressful situations can also lead you to make unhealthy choices. Lots of us experience emotional eating when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Nervous energy can also lead to excessive eating and reaching for the wrong foods. If we don’t plan our day sensibly, we leave little time for eating and exercise – you will reach for ‘fast’ foods for convenience. You may even skip meals. Having a demanding schedule can mean we leave little time for exercise to burn off excessive fat. Feeling stressed can lead to poor quality sleep and lack of it if we are working late into the evening.
Try to Break the Cycle of Stress and Weight Gain
Try to maintain a schedule or diary to help create times when you can exercise. Don’t fill your day so much that you leave little time to eat. Make exercise a priority and stick to it, don’t forget it takes on average 66 days to form a new habit. If a friend asks you out for a drink one evening and you normally do Pilates, suggest another evening or meet after the class. Use your time effectively, go for a run in your lunchtime or set your alarm an hour earlier in the morning. The beauty of the FITMum Plan | Emma Wheeler Fitness is you can access classes whenever suits you.
You don’t need comfort food to ‘lift’ your mood. Studies suggest that eating relatively healthier comfort foods such as ‘ unsalted popcorn’ or vegetable crisps have the same effect on a negative mood. Practise ‘mindful eating’ Try to eat without any distractions, savour every mouthful and really enjoy the taste of your food. Sometimes keeping a food diary or using a weight loss app can help with weight loss as you can visualise what you have eaten. Try to drink more water, thirst is often mistaken for hunger.
Lastly engage in some stress relief strategies in your daily life such as mindfulness, yoga, stretching or going for a walk. Doing so can reduce your cortisol levels and in turn help to reduced weight.
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