Stress. In this day and age, it’s a fact of life. Even if we eat healthy and exercise daily, chronic stress can prevent us from losing weight and can even cause us to GAIN weight.
Whether it’s demands at work, kids, schedules, caring for aging parents or gridlock traffic; it’s all around us and never seems to go away. Stress and anxiety lead to physical and emotional discomfort which can lead to ravenous hunger. It’s more common than you think; 43% of women admit to overeating or eating unhealthy food in response to stress, so you are not alone.
The stress hormones that our bodies release during tense times give us the biochemical strength to fight or flee our stressors. These chemicals are adrenaline, corticotrophin releasing hormone and cortisol. Cortisol can interfere with appetite control and satiety and cause out brains to find more pleasure in carby and sugar-laden foods, which can increase our cravings.
These hormones were more helpful when we were being chased by saber-toothed tigers or faced physical dangers, but nowadays, most of our stressors are non-life-threatening and we deal with them while glued to our chairs and not burning off the calories like we did when being chased.
To add to the cycle, eating often DOES relieve stress, even for a short time. It releases feel-good hormones that our bodies remember and crave the next time we are stressed. Thankfully, this carb-craving cycle can be learned AND unlearned. To break the cycle, we need to find other ways to release the feel-good hormones or reduce the cortisol and stress hormones that are released.
Here are a few ways to stop the cycle:
- Exercise – We know that exercise increases happy hormones and makes us feel good. It also burns calories and reduces the chances of gaining weight, controls insulin and sugar levels. A long walk is a great way to reduce stress at the end of the day. It’ also a way of thinking through things and finding other ways to deal with the stress.
- Eat regular, balanced meals – Eating 5-6 small, nutritious mini-meals every day also helps keep sugar levels even, decreases cortisol levels and control appetite.
- Reduce caffeine – Did you know the more caffeine you have, the more cortisol you produce? It’s true. Try cutting your caffeine in half. it will also help you get your Zzzzzz’s AND relax.
- Sleep – This is sometimes overlooked in the weight loss equation. The less sleep you get, the higher your cortisol levels and the harder it is to control your appetite and satiety. Sleep is the best way to control your inner Cookie Monster!
- Relax – OK, this is easier said than done – I admit it!! But when we take time out with a book, do some yoga or meditate, our brains produce chemicals to reduce the effects of stress so we are less inclined to find relief in the cookie jar.
It is entirely possible to have stress AND reach our weight loss and fitness goals. While stress is a part of life, we must learn to deal with it properly so that we can be as healthy as possible. A proper mindset and healthy habits will see us through to the finish line!
If stress is proving to be an insurmountable barrier for you in your weight loss efforts, consider reaching out to a professional for help. As a health coach, I believe in a holistic approach to weight loss and can assist you in navigating your way through the stress. Let’s connect: firstname.lastname@example.org.