Stress, Your Diet, And Weight Loss

Health, Nutrition, Strategies, Weight Loss Add comments

Chronic stress is so commonplace that it’s easy to ignore the effects.  But stress is a definite threat to your losing weight as well as your overall health.

Let’s look at what happens to your body when you’re stressed…

Your body is constantly working to maintain homeostasis, which is a state of internal stability.

When you’re hot, you sweat to cool yourself.  When you’re cold, you shiver to warm yourself.  But these are very simple examples.

When your body is stressed, it has a stabilizing reaction to compensate for the real or perceived threat that caused the stress.  This is called your stress response.

Now a stress response is a good thing if a bear pops out of the woods right in front of you – the stress response will help to keep you alive.  But chronic stressors in modern life – traffic, cell phones, bills, bosses, etc – create so many stress responses that you get worn down.  Instead of saving you, they are killing you.

Stress responses involve a series of biochemical changes.  Many of these changes are there to get you out of the situation, and the rest are there to help bring you back to your pre-stressed state.

When you’re stressed your body will release various chemicals and hormones including adrenaline and cortisol that prepare you for a fight-or-flight response.  These biochemical signalers increase your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

If these changes are channeled into action – sprinting away from the bear – the stress is resolved and your body starts to go back into homeostasis.

If your stress is unresolved, these chemical signals are ongoing and dangerous, leading to burnout.  This is what I meant by “chronic stress” up above.

Chronic, unresolved stress leads to depression, adrenal fatigue, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, and a host of other maladies.

Most germane to those us interested in body transformation, unresolved stress has been linked to developing insulin resistance and inflammation.

Excess cortisol (a stress hormone) also leads to leptin resistance.

Leptin is a hormone that turns off your hunger signals.  Leptin resistance makes controlling your hunger a continuous challenge.  Sticking to an eating plan is tough when your body is constantly crying out for more, no matter how much you eat.

Chronic cortisol release when paired with adrenaline tells your body to stop burning fat, and even to store more.  Plus, the insulin resistance from cortisol leads to elevated insulin levels which makes you store more fat, especially around your abdomen.  (Did you know it’s impossible to burn fat when insulin is being released?)

These complicated biochemical reactions do everything they can to stop you from losing weight.

And as a bonus, stress-related cortisol plays a huge role in bone loss over time.  So that’s another thing to stress over!

So what is a good starting point for dealing with stress so you can start losing stubborn pounds?

First, de-stress yourself as much as you can.  It sounds too simple to work, but a few basic stress reducing strategies will greatly reduce the physical effects caused by stress.

Here are a few great techniques to help you de-stress (No “woo-woo” stuff here, only techniques that have been shown to reduce physical stress responses will be listed.  Keep your healing crystals on the shelf)

  • Exercise: Any form of of exercise except for endurance aerobics (yoga, walking, tai chi, and weightlifting are great)
  • Relaxation Techniques: meditation, mindful walking, and my favorite – power naps
  • Hobbies: Something that you enjoy.  Studies have shown stress-relieving benefits from journaling, scrapbooking, playing music, reading, and learning a language
  • Mind/Body Training: Visualization, guided relaxation, chi gong
  • Complementary Health: Massage, counseling, chiropractic, acupuncture

These techniques have a threefold advantage – they will help you relieve stress, resist stress, and be stress resilient.

Think of it like moving with thrown rocks and dodging others before they are even thrown.

Stress management breaks down into a three step approach:

  1. Follow the stress relieving techniques listed above
  2. Remove stressful foods from your diet (this reduces inflammation and internal stress)
  3. Get regular exercise (helps to dissipate negative chemical responses)

The stress relief techniques in step one will only work if supported with proper diet and exercise.

You can find plenty of in-depth info on food, supplements, and exercise elsewhere on this blog, so here are the biggest things you can do…

Stress Relieving Diet Tips

  • Cut out Grains, dairy, soy, sugar, and all artificial foods
  • Eat more vegetables (also important for your health)
  • Add herbal remedies: Ginseng, rhodiola, siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, licorice
  • Add supplements: B-complex vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc

Stress Relieving Exercise Tips

  • Move frequently at a leisurely pace: Walk, hike, commute by bike
  • Train your whole body
  • Lift heavy once in a while
  • Sprint occasionally
  • Stay away from aerobic modes of exercise like step classes, zumba, and jogging – these raise your stress hormone levels instead of lowering them

And now here are a few emergency stress busters, for when things are really getting out of hand:

  • Get up and walk.  Both diffuses stress hormones and removes you from the situation
  • Drink a glass of water
  • Breathe deeply
  • Hit a punching bag
  • Clench and then consciously relax all of your muscle groups
  • Force a laugh
  • Close your eyes and visualize a relaxing scene (not for use during traffic)

Ahhhhhhhhh :)

De-stressing is one of the most important things you can do for your health, your weight loss, and most importantly, your peace of mind.

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