Stress Management for Weight Loss

Monday Lifestyle Education Discussion:
“Stress & Weight loss”

Stress. No one can escape it, BUT you can change how you respond to it (notice I said respond and not REACT). If CHRONIC stress becomes a way of life, it can wreak havoc on your health. In terms of weight loss, stress makes it very difficult to lose weight for several reasons:

  1. Stress causes a cascading release of hormones that ultimately results in increased hunger and cravings (Increased ghrelin signaling and decreased leptin signaling)
  2. Stress increases cortisol which may lead to central fat deposition (Extra fat around the abdominal cavity)
  3. Stress makes it difficult to engage in healthy lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and planning nutritious meals. If you’re stressed out, you’ll find you have very little energy to make thoughtful decisions about food and exercise
  4. Stress often leads to overeating because overeating food causes a release of serotonin in the brain. Over time, this creates a habit that is hard to break.

Chronic stress affects digestion (IBS and reflux), can lead to hypertension, increased risk for diabetes, depression, anxiety, weight gain, pain and can weaken your immune system.

The solution:
AVOID, ALTER OR ADAPT. There are some stressful situations that you can avoid all together (discussions on controversial issues, watching the news, etc). Others you may have to alter or adapt. If you simply cannot avoid rush hour traffic, find a book to listen to or some nice music. Keep a list of your favorite podcasts or TED talks and listen to them in the car. Change your outlook on challenges.

Some helpful strategies to relieve stress: prayer/meditation, yoga, exercise, dancing, breathing exercises, balanced diet, mindful eating, sleep (7-9 hours), massage, laugh often.

If chronic stress is a way of life for you, here are my top recommendations:

  • Set boundaries with people and situations. Time and energy is a valuable
  • Just say no.
  • Be assertive with friends/family about what you need/want. Time management
  • Keep a social support network and call them often
  • Exercise–it’s the best way to burn off that excess cortisol and adrenaline

Stress happens to all of us, but it should not become a way of life. If you live under chronic stress, maintaining your healthy weight will be very challenging. Take an inventory of stressful events in your life and start to make changes today. It will be worth it!

About the Author
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Weight Loss Coach specializing in lifestyle transformation