If you are stressing about losing weight or are a stress eater and turn to food to soothe yourself, I implore you to continue reading to find out how stress may be hindering your weight loss efforts and your overall wellbeing.
Let’s face it; stress is a fact of life. While many can manage their stress through quiet meditation, yoga, journaling, etc., many still struggle to find the peace they are seeking in life.
When we’re stressed, what we need to spend more time engaging in is consistent self-care, but sadly, self-care is usually the first thing that gets knocked off our “to-do” lists when things get hectic. This is one of the biggest mistakes any of us can make because it only adds to our stress! So, in addition to feeling like we’re being pulled in multiple directions, we’re exhausted because we’re not sleeping well, we’re not taking the time to nourish our bodies properly, and we’re not taking any time for healthy movement because we just cannot fit it into our already jam-packed schedules.
I want to tell you that this routine, followed by an overwhelming percentage of the population, isn’t going to help you lose weight.
In fact, research shows that it could even attribute to weight gain. According to Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women, “Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds.” Stress is a huge factor in weight management. People aren’t often aware of this fact or simply ignore it because it’s too hard to manage without making significant changes in their lives.
The truth is that chronic, long-term stress boosts your hunger. This happens when we’re in a stress cycle, and our bodies are releasing more of the “hunger” hormone called cortisol. When excess cortisol is released, insulin levels increase blood sugar drops and what often ensues is cravings for sugary and/or fatty foods.
Here are a few suggestions to try to help you stress less about your weight:
Stop focusing on the weight.
I realize this sounds counterproductive, but when we’re fixated on a number, it can be stressful! It is especially true if the scale isn’t going in the right direction. Begin to recognize that the number on the scale does not define you. If you believe that your weight is compromising your health, consider doing some research on a movement that is becoming more widely accepted called Health At Every Size (HAES). There are a series of research studies to corroborate that when we stop focusing on weight loss and instead focus on self-care, the health benefits are very positive. Based on research, people who follow this approach arrive at their natural weight without having to diet, and it’s sustainable. This is not the case with traditional dieting which has an overwhelmingly dismal sustainability rate. Also, open your mind and your heart to the concept that some Illnesses are caused by lack of consistent self-care like stress management, healthy movement, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, etc. When we commit to consistent self-care, many common health issues dissipate or disappear altogether.
Begin to understand that the term “health” is comprised of several components. For example, our emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual health are also a part of our overall wellbeing and needs to be considered as an influencing factor in our overall health. Again, when we are living more fulfilling lives that make self-care a priority, we usually see more balance in these areas.
Reconnect through movement.
As I mentioned earlier, when we’re stressed and our schedules are packed, we often forget about exercising. Not only does this attribute to increased stress levels, but it also causes us to disconnect from our bodies. This disconnection often leads to mindless eating, emotional eating, stress eating, and general dissatisfaction with life.
Much of the stress that people struggle with is self-induced. While many don’t have much control in their work environments regarding workload, etc., you can control how you spend your time after working hours and on weekends. To honor yourself and your body’s needs, be clear about what your priorities are and then schedule your life accordingly. Doing this may involve having to say no sometimes or establish more defined boundaries with others. I know this can be uncomfortable, but if it’s going to help you find more balance in your life, make it a priority. Your well-being is important, and you deserve to be honored.
Meditation is one of the most effective ways to help destress, decompress and reconnect with your body. Don’t know how to meditate? There are dozens of free cell phone apps that allow you to meditate anywhere. Pressed for time? Many of these apps have timed meditations that allow you to meditate for as little as five minutes. I highly recommend the free app called Calm but there are many others too.
Ask for help.
Always remember that you don’t have to go it alone. I firmly believe that asking for help is a very courageous act. If you need help, ask a family member, a friend, a healer, clergy, coach, etc. Remember that asking for help isn’t just about you receiving help. Those who love and care about you will feel blessed that you chose them.
Clearly understanding that weight is more than just calories in and calories out is critical in understanding how our bodies work. When we approach our bodies from a holistic viewpoint and honor them on an emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual level, remarkable things will begin to unfold. This may or may not include weight loss, but it will certainly enable you to have a more harmonious, joyful and less stressful life.