STRESS…we all have stress in our lives, yet, as individuals, we experience stress and cope with stress in different ways. Our coping skills may become taxed during stressful times, which, for many, can lead to weight gain. Becoming aware of how we experience and deal with stress in our lives can lead to healthy coping skills, which ultimately helps us meet our weight loss goals. Take a moment to bring awareness to the stressors in your life. How do you deal with those stressors? How do you feel during stressful events? What behaviors do you use to feel better?
For many years, I thought of stress as only intense stress when it becomes overwhelming, known as acute stress, but then my awareness shifted to the chronic, underlying stress we experience in our busy lives, and how chronic stress impacts weight gain. When we are stressed, our bodies produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol raises blood glucose levels, leading to an increased release of insulin to manage blood glucose levels. When insulin is released, blood glucose levels drop, which causes increased hunger (Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN). During stressful times, we typically crave foods higher in sugar and fat, otherwise known as comfort foods, due to the stress response. When we eat comfort foods higher in calories, our bodies produce dopamine, which activates the pleasure center of the brain (Singh M.Front Psychol. 2014 Sep 1;5:925. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00925. eCollection 2014 Sep 1. Review.PMID: 25225489). This feeling of pleasure and gratification quickly becomes habit and we return to these foods over and over to relieve stress and feel better, thus leading to weight gain.
Here at Revolution Physical Therapy Weight Loss, we understand the importance of managing stress to reach our weight loss goals. Our bodies are designed to manage acute stress, yet in today’s busy world, most of us are carrying around chronic stress which our bodies are not equipped to handle in the same way, so it is important to build the skills to manage chronic stress. Here are a few tips to begin managing stress.
Reflect on activities that bring you pleasure and incorporate these activities intentionally into your life. Doing so will ultimately reduce stress. Some examples include: taking a walk, sitting outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, taking a warm bath, watching your favorite show, talking to friends and family, reading a book, listening to music. Create your own list of activities that resonate with you which bring you pleasure. Write them down and post your list where you can see it so you can replace stress eating with a healthy coping skill to reduce stress.
Take deep breaths. Deep breathing immediately reduces stress. Take slow deep breaths which fill up down to your belly for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds and release slowly for 5 seconds. This takes only a few seconds and you can do this throughout your day in any environment.
Exercise. Exercise will not only help you reduce stress, it will help you reach your weight loss goals two fold through burning calories and decreasing stress.
As with all lifestyle adjustments, remain patient and consistent, and eventually, these healthy coping skills will become more natural!