Most people have some form of stress in their lives but if it is affecting your weight and health, you need to do something about it.
Acute stress directly relates to a single or short series of events so often does not last for very long.
Chronic stress is where stress has been present over a long period of time. Not only can it impede weight loss it can lead to weight gain. Being in a chronic state of stress sends the body into “survival mode” and other side effects could also include inflammation, insulin resistance or illness.
Your body may be suffering the effects of chronic stress even though you do not feel stressed.
Chronic stress triggers increased production of two main hormones: cortisol and insulin.
Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone and can lead to increases in your appetite, mainly for high calorie sweets and starchy foods, and slows down metabolism. This increases fat storage, and sends fat and inflammatory chemicals to the liver, which may lead to insulin resistance.
Cortisol is also catabolic (losing lean tissue), the opposite of anabolic (gaining lean tissue). Losing lean tissue leads to a decrease in metabolic rate.
Cortisol medications are known to stimulate weight gain.
The role of insulin is to regulate blood glucose (sugar) levels and to convert any excess into a storable form of glucose in your fat cells, called glycogen. Eating carbohydrates, in excess of your body’s Individual Carbohydrate Tolerance (ICT), leads to high levels of blood glucose and then high levels of insulin. Long term, this could lead to insulin resistance, making losing weight very difficult.
For effective weight loss and long-term health, stress must be avoided or managed to keep cortisol in check.
A number of suggestions that may be helpful to use include:
- Keeping daily carbohydrate intake under your body’s ICT can help prevent the double whammy of high insulin and high cortisol.
- Maintaining optimal protein levels and some good fat in all meals helps with satiety and controls the hormonal and metabolic changes that can stimulate appetite and promote over-eating.
- Omega-3 oil or fats are anti-inflammatory.
- Getting a daily dose of sunshine is just like taking a happiness pill. Being in nature helps too. Consider having “walking or park meetings” at work.
- Some form of exercise or movement daily, just 30 minutes total each day can make a difference.
- Prioritise getting a good night’s sleep as it helps reset and balance your hormones.
- Focus on what you can change (not what you can’t) – the power of belief.
- Socialise – humans are social animals. Daily human contact helps. Call a friend today. Join a club. Volunteer.
- Be grateful for what you have and the people in your life. Start a journal to yourself.
- Practise Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, breathing exercises. It clears the head and mind.
- Play your favourite music, read a book, start a hobby – a gift to yourself.
How to put these suggestions into practice.
Choose 1-3 of the above and implement today. Commit to doing them daily for 4 weeks. Schedule them by making perpetual diary events if this helps.
When you get to the end of 4 weeks, evaluate how you feel and if you can feel a change in your management of your stress levels. If you can, and you have developed a new routine for stress management, then you can add more if you wish.
We call this a form of self-care!