So how can reducing stress help you lose weight?
It starts with the hormone cortisol, which has become synonymous with stress. You may have heard or seen an advertisement for yet another magic weight loss pill or potion that reduces cortisol in your body to help lose weight. But how does cortisol really affect our body’s ability to store fat? And how can we reduce the amount of cortisol in our bodies without resorting to weight loss pills?
Whenever you are experiencing physical or psychological stress, the brain releases the hormones cortisol and adrenaline to help you handle the danger. So whether you are in physical danger or sitting still at your desk worrying about a project at work, your body responds to both in exactly the same way. Once the stress subsides, cortisol hangs around in the body to help bring the system back to balance. Cortisol often does this by signaling the body to eat and replenish the energy that should have been used during the stressful situation. However, you most likely were just sitting in a meeting or dealing with a personal problem, and your body really doesn’t need to replenish calories. Furthermore, who truly reaches for celery sticks in a stressed out state of mind?
Not only do we tend to eat more when our cortisol levels are high, but according to Dr. Len Kravitz, exercise scientist, “High levels of cortisol cause fat stores and excess circulating fat to be relocated and deposited deep in the abdomen, which left unchecked can develop into or enhance obesity.”
Researchers are still quarreling as to how influential cortisol is to actual weight gain. Whatever the case may be, we all know that stress can stand in the way of our self-care and healthy behaviors. So, reducing stress will likely result in positive changes on the scale.
4 tips to lower stress and lose weight
1. Move to lose. Do some push-ups. Take a walk. Stand up and stretch. Moving your muscles instantly relieves stress. When I’m highly stressed, even 15 minutes on my treadmill with some good tunes and a little sweat changes my attitude.
2. Pay attention to what goes in your mouth. Chew slowly and be conscious of your portion sizes. This will help decrease cortisol and help you feel full sooner. Plus, I measure out my portions when I snack during the day. It’s easy to munch on a whole bag of pretzels when typing away on my computer, but if I measure out one serving and eat slowly, I feel more in control and save myself calories.
3. Stop yo-yo dieting. Research shows constant dieting can raise cortisol levels by 18 percent. Eat healthy, whole foods every three to four hours throughout the day. Start with breakfast! I never miss breakfast — it’s my favorite meal of the day. Even on the go, I take a smoothie with me, a piece of peanut butter toast or a Greek yogurt with blueberries mixed in.
4. Get your zzz’s. Research has associated sleep deprivation with weight gain. Whenever your body is overtired, it craves energy usually in the form of chips or cookies. Seven to nine hours is the general recommendation to support the body. I am guilty of sleep deprivation, but I have learned to put priority on sleep. I literally use the “game of monopoly” philosophy: Go right to bed; Do not pass go; Do not collect $200 … you get my point. I have to just stop getting distracted by little things in my house and office and hit the hay. It will all be there for me tomorrow!
Give these habits a try for two weeks and see if you can feel the difference.
Just give it two weeks! Check out my new book 2-Week Total Body Turnaround.