Everyone has busy lives and has a certain amount of stress they encounter daily. Stress can come in the form of exercise, nervousness, anxiety, work pressures, or relationship issues. Good or bad, stress can have a definite effect on how we are able to manage our weight. Some people, when stressed, lose weight while others seem to gain even if their diet has not changed.
Regardless of the type of stress we are under, our bodies will elevate the amount of cortisol in our system as a means of dealing with the stress . That is a completely normal response. This becomes a problem when we are always stressed. If the level of cortisol remains elevated chronically, you may be prone to weight gain, primarily in the area of the abdomen. As well, the elevated levels of cortisol may also be the reason you are unable to lose the weight easily. It is excess visceral fat that is linked to many other health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Some of the side effects of stress are:
- Fat gain-particularly in the abdominal region
- Depression, anxiety, fatigue
- Disrupted sleep, insomnia
- Elevated blood sugar levels
- Digestive problems
- Autoimmune diseases
How can you best deal with stress? Here are some ideas or suggestions on how to get started.
- Begin by learning to set realistic goals for yourself. It’s ok to aim for the moon, but it may be best to do it in smaller, more achievable steps. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself.
- Exercise-This is one of the biggest stress releases for most people. Canada’s Physical Activity Guide recommends at least 30-60 minutes a day to get out and get some sort of moderate exercise. If you are not comfortable going to the gym, find a sport or activity you enjoy. You will meet new people and get the exercise you need.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff-Learn to laugh at yourself when things don’t always go as planned.
- Learn to relax-Try to do something you enjoy everyday. You will find this helps to better deal with stress and it also helps to keep you more relaxed. Another relaxation option for you to try is meditation or yoga.
- Take charge of your thoughts, emotions, schedule, environment and the way you deal with problems-Learn to take control of how you deal with these things. Your day will be more efficient and stress free in the long run.
- Start a stress journal-Begin by noting what causes your stress, how you felt physically and emotionally, how you acted in response, and what you did to feel better. This is a great way to try to break negative patterns in your life that may be causing you unnecessary stress.
- Make time for fun!
- Eat better-Try to eat whole, low glycemic, fresh foods at every meal. This will not only help with weight loss, but will also help to balance out your blood sugar levels. Stress causes sugar cravings and sugar increases cortisol levels.
If you are concerned about your sudden weight gain or your stress levels, a discussion with your doctor may provide you with more insight as there may be underlying health factors you are unaware of.
When you are trying to lose weight, you may unknowingly be creating more stress for yourself as you are changing how you eat and your routine to try to fit in workouts. The best way to remain focused and achieve your weight loss goal with less stress, is to try to tackle one new habit per week. That may be to drink more water, or get in a certain number of workouts, or eat more vegetables. What ever the new habit may be, try for one per week. If you miss it one day, it’s not the end of the world. Just pick up where you left off the next day. If you are consistent, you will reach your goals.