By: | May 10, 2012

The Skinny on Stress

Manage your stress and you can slim down. According to the American Psychological Association, “Weight loss is never successful if you remain burdened by stress and other negative feelings.” Whatever a person’s basic approach is to weight loss, reducing calories, cutting carbs, or increasing activity level, calming your mind should be your first priority.

Cortisol which has been termed the “stress hormone” plays a critical role in many actions of the body. The amount of cortisol secreted in response to stress can vary among individuals, however normally cortisol levels are highest in the morning and lowest around midnight. Cortisol’s role is to help maintain blood pressure, stimulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy and stimulate the release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. Chronic or poorly managed stress may lead to elevated levels of cortisol levels which stimulate your appetite. The end result? Weight gain or difficulty losing unwanted pounds.

So, how do you reduce stress? Of course there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for stress. Some find stress relief through physical activity, relaxation exercises, yoga or meditation. Others need to see a psychologist who can offer support and an alternative perspective to help facilitate change in one’s life. I know for me, a monthly massage and acupuncture session really helps me to manage my stress. What works for you?

These are some ways chronic stress and excess cortisol can contribute to weight gain:

  1. Metabolism — Do you tend to put on more weight when you’re stressed, even if you’re eating the same amount of food as you always have? An excess of cortisol caused by increased stress can slow your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience. This also makes dieting a challenge.
  2. Cravings — OK, so your stressed. Now what? Do you reach for a piece of fruit or a bowl of ice cream? People experiencing chronic stress tend to crave more fatty, salty and sugary foods. These foods tend to be low in nutritional value and filled with empty calories.
  3. Blood Sugar — Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia.
  4. Fat Storage — Excessive stress affects where we store fat. Higher levels of stress are linked to greater levels of abdominal fat. Not only is abdominal fat aesthetically undesirable, it is also linked to greater health risks such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes.

So how do we achieve personal health goals without adding to our stress?

  • Take time for yourself every day ~ whether it’s 10 minutes to reflect and relax or a fun activity which will revitalize you, make time to do it!
  • Get Moving! Take a walk, ride your bike, do yoga but just move your body
  • Think positive about yourself and your body
  • Nourish your body with natural, unprocessed foods
  • Drink Water
  • Learn something new!

These are just a few ideas to consider for a healthy lifestyle approach that’s all about feeling great!

If you have any questions or need some more guidance, feel free to give us a call at: 410-637-3760. Or just check out our Baltimore Health Coaching page for more information.