When it comes to weight loss, stress plays a significant role. Whether you suffer from physical, emotional, mental or psychological stress, learning to manage your stress can often be the difference between reaching your weight goals and stagnating.
When our bodies are under stress, certain hormones such as cortisol are elevated which can lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue. Elevated cortisol and insulin levels can also increase our food cravings and appetite, disrupt our sleep patterns and encourage our bodies to store excess glucose as fat, especially around our waist.
Learning to manage any stress in your life is an extremely vital practice to focus on.
If you feel under pressure at work, are you able to ask for help? Can you manage your time better? Do you need to turn your phone off after 8pm?
Are you exercising too much? Too much exercise can cause what’s known as overtraining syndrome, a condition caused by chronically elevated cortisol levels.
Are you sleeping well? A lack of good quality sleep is another stress for our bodies. It can lead to an increase in levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, a decrease in levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, as well as disrupting glucose and insulin metabolism. It affects our performance, concentration, energy levels, mood, immunity, and has been shown to contribute to weight gain. It can also lead to making the wrong food choices. When we are tired, we are more likely to opt for take-out or a frozen meal.
Do you go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time each day? It’s important to develop a consistent sleep schedule as your circadian rhythm (internal body clock) functions best when you have a routine.
Do you watch television or use electronic devices just before going to sleep? The blue light emitted from televisions, iPads, etc. suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone produced by your pineal gland that regulates your sleep/wake cycle.
Do you get plenty of sunshine or natural light during the day? Being exposed to fluorescent office lights for long periods of time can also suppress melatonin production.
Do you spend time in nature? Being in nature is a natural anti-depressant and can help increase feelings of calmness and serenity.
Do you exercise each day? You don’t need to run a marathon, simply going for a brisk 20-min walk, especially in a park, can do wonders for your stress levels.
Do you need to learn to let things go? If you dwell on your problems or any issues you may be experiencing as soon as your head hits the pillow, then it may be time to learn how to change your thinking or perspective. If you can’t improve a situation or walk away from it, perhaps you need to learn to accept it. Most of the time it’s our own negative thinking that can be our worst enemy and can contribute to increased stress in our lives.
Do you meditate everyday? Many people think that they need to join a monastery in Thailand to be able to reap the benefits of meditation. In reality, focusing on your breath in a quiet place for just 5-10 minutes each day can significantly reduce your cortisol levels while increasing your feelings of well being.
Do you live a balanced life? Does your life consist of all work and no play? Do you take regular holidays? Even spending a few days away from home can help to contribute to a less stressed you. Do you have any hobbies or engage in any activities that you really enjoy? Finding the time to switch off and to immerse yourself in an activity where you can ‘lose yourself’ can make a tremendous difference to how stressed you feel.
Ensuring that you maintain a high intake of vitamin C can help your body combat the effects of stress by reducing your body’s levels of cortisol. Consider supplementing your diet with an extra two grams during times of increased stress, and as vitamin C is water-soluble, any excess that your body doesn’t need will be excreted not stored in your body.
Vitamin B, magnesium and omega-3 fats are also great nutrients that can help reduce cortisol levels.
Eating well is a big piece of the weight loss puzzle, however, make sure that you give yourself every chance of reaching your goals by learning how to manage your stress hormones.