Do you know how much of an effect stress has on your weight?
From stress eating (which almost all of us do!) to reduced sleep and increased cortisol, stress can wreak havoc on your weight and overall health.
First, let’s look at how stress sabotages your weight loss efforts, then some ways you can get that stress back under control so you can get your weight back on track!
How stress becomes physical
For millions of years, humans were forced to protect themselves from environmental factors. From the earliest days of dinosaurs and cavemen, nature has proven its ability to put fear in human beings. Life and death circumstances have evolved around the ability to understand danger, and seek protection and survival. If you were being chased by a predator, your adrenal glands initiated a “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline and cortisol into the body. These hormones provided extra physical energy and strength from stored carbohydrates and fats.
While most of our stressors are not the same a our earliest ancestors, the body’s natural course of evolution has maintained this original fight-or-flight stress response. But whether we are being physically threatened or not, with any increased stress our body looks to its stored fuel, and then replenishes it when used. Also, with increased levels of cortisol, our body also does not respond as well to leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full, so we eat more.
Modern-day stress may be more psychological than physiological, but it is also more constant. Many of us face chronic stress as a way of life, which means we have consistently elevated levels of cortisol. Now the body thinks it continually needs extra fuel, and typically stores that as fat around the abdomen, or as it’s commonly referred to, the old “spare tire.”
Belly fat: a common sign of adrenal fatigue
Adrenal imbalance causes a number of issues, including an expanded waistline. The science behind it is quite interesting. Normally when we feel begin to feel hungry, our blood sugar drops and the brain sends a message to the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol activates glucose, fats, and amino acids to keep our body fueled with energy until we eat. Cortisol maintains blood sugar levels, and insulin helps our cells absorb glucose. When we have longterm stress, both insulin and cortisol remain elevated in the blood, and the extra glucose is stored as fat–mostly in the abdomen.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Scientists have discovered that fat cells actually have special receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, and there are more of these receptors in our abdominal fat cells than anywhere else in our bodies! In addition, scientists have shown that belly fat is actually an active tissue, acting as an endocrine organ that responds to the stress response by actually welcoming more fat to be deposited! This is an ongoing cycle until we take steps to correct this adrenal imbalance.
– via www.womentowomen.com
Techniques To Help Lower Your Stress
Ready to get your stress under control and have more success with your weight loss efforts?
I can help! Try a few of these ideas to see what works best for you and your life.
Stress-Reduction Techniques to Support Weight Loss
Take some time to consider what stress-reducing steps might work for your personality and life circumstances. Here are some proven techniques that relieve stress and therefore improve your weight loss efforts.
Deep breathing helps relax your entire body, strengthens the muscles in your chest and abdomen, helps you burn calories more efficiently so that you lose weight, and leaves you feeling calm, yet energized. Whenever you feel tense, take a 3–5 minute break for deep breathing. Here’s how:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees pulled up. Keep your feet slightly apart.
- Inhale deeply through your nose. As you breathe in, allow your stomach to relax so the air flows into your abdomen. Your stomach should balloon out as you breathe in. Visualize your lungs filling up with energy so your chest swells out.
- Exhale deeply. As you breathe out, let your stomach and chest fall in. Imagine air coming out from your abdomen and then from your lungs.
While deep breathing can help relieve acute stress, proper breathing is also an important part of overall health. Learn the breathing techniques that can improve your overall health.
Exercise is crucial for weight loss, but it has the specific benefit of reducing stress, too. This is because exercise releases tension that has built up in your body and can release emotional tension as well. Also, by improving your health, well-being, and self-image, exercise bolsters your body’s ability to handle stress.
Laughter lowers levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Even the mere act of smiling has its benefits. Smiling sends a message to your brain to release endorphins—substances that relieve pain and give a sense of pleasure, peace, and well-being.
As meditation has become better known in Western cultures, scientists have begun to quantify its physical benefits in hundreds of studies.
To start your meditation practice, find a quiet place and turn off your cell phone and other distractions. Don’t allow yourself to be disturbed for at least 20 minutes. Next, pick a focus word or brief phrase that’s meaningful to you. Some examples are “one,” “peace,” “shalom,” or “om.”
Then, sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax your body and mind, and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you are breathing out, say your word silently to yourself. Don’t worry about thoughts coming in and out of your mind. Gently release them and return to the repetition. To achieve relaxation, use this technique for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day.
– via Dr. David Williams
Are you ready to reduce your stress in order to reduce your weight?