Stress and Weight Loss

I seriously ate one cookie and gained weight! Whats up?!

The holiday season can be hectic, overscheduled and ruled by deadlines, all things that cause our stress levels to soar. Fear not, we are fueled by hot chocolate, candy canes, fancy hors d’oeuvres, that once a year cheesecake, that once a year brownie cake a la mode, that once a year whipped caramel mousse parfait, that…you get the point. Everywhere we turn, stress and sugar.

Stress is not measured by events, but rather the impact on your physical, emotional and mental state.  The source of the stress is irrelevant.  Our brains do have a cool reaction in a stressful situation, though.  To preserve precious moments that may save your life, we instantly increase stress hormones, and those hormones send us into action.  There is no time for thinking, only reaction.  This fantastic off switch can be instrumental in getting us out of harms way, but in the event we experience stress AND we need to think, we may make a less than well thought out decision.  The major stress hormone, cortisol, becomes increased, interferes with weight loss and is associated with weight gain. The holidays are the perfect storm for weight gain in most adults. Our stress hormones kick up and stay up, signaling the body to store fat, and treats are everywhere.

Stress will be ever present, and so we should early on develop skills to help manage the situation.  The old adage of counting to 10 makes good sense, allowing the fight or flight to dissipate, and think about options in a particular circumstance.

Lose weight, Focus on Stress….

Research says we can manage our stress and lower cortisol, and that we can manage weight with lower cortisol levels. Pretty cool! Research also shows that mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises lower cortisol, improve our health and can help manage weight.

Try a few of these, and remember that this skills take practice and time to develop!

  • Count to 10 with a mantra. 1. I need to remain calm. 2 i need to remain calm. 3 I need to remain….
  • Focus on breath – Inhale on 4, exhale on 8.
  • Visualize a calm place – the ocean, favorite vacation spot, calm meadow
  • Give yourself a hug (get a hug) – compression signals our parasympathetic nervous system and helps to calm us. Hug away!

Other samples of cortisol lowering activities:

  • Meditation
  • Visualization
  • Breathing
  • Aerobic activities
  • Yoga
  • Hiking
  • Being Mindful in any setting
  • Play with animals
  • Give generously
  • Express yourself creatively
  • Dance
  • Sex
  • Pray or join a spiritual community
  • Participate in a social group and decrease loneliness
  • Regulation of circadian rhythm

Surely, you can’t meditate away poor nutrition, but incorporating some mindfulness into your holiday season can help lessen stress, and maybe even your weight!

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