Managing Stress to Prevent Weight Gain

There is a direct relationship between stress levels and the number of “dirty deeds” (eating cookies, chips, fries, etc.) my clients commit. Have you ever wondered why? When we are faced with stressful situations, our brain signals the adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, releases glucose and fatty acids into the bloodstream to provide energy to the muscles. High cortisol levels however result in an increased appetite and lingering fat deposits in the neck, trunk and abdomen. In an interesting experiment conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, volunteers were subjected to a stress-inducing test and then compared to a control group that was not exposed to stress. In all cases, fat levels in the blood of the first group took a longer time to clear than in the control group. Reducing stress then can actually help prevent weight gain. Here are a few easy ways to manage day-to-day stress:
  • Exercise - The body naturally assumes that when you are stressed you will follow the elevated cortisol levels with physical activity. When you exercise, you raise your endorphins (feel good hormones) which counteract the negative effects of stress hormones. Some physical activity 3-5 times a week for at least 35 minutes will do your body good.
  • Take a deep breath - Deep breathing brings much-needed oxygen into the body and relaxes the muscles. It also slows down the heart rate (which accelerates when we feel anxious). Concentrating on the rhythm of deep breathing helps take your mind off what's causing the problem.
  • Relax your muscles - Because anxiety causes muscles to tighten – give your body a chance to relax. Take a deep breath and hold for three seconds, while pushing the thumb and index finger of one hand together so that you feel a little tension. Then slowly exhale through your mouth while releasing the tension in your fingers. Repeat several times.

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