Tag Archives: reducing stress

stress and weight gain

What’s Connection Between Stress and Weight Gain? Lower Stress Can Help You Lose More Weight

There’s a connection between stress and weight gain that can make your committed attempts to lose weight even harder than it already is. Here’s how stress and weight gain are connected and proven ways to relieve stress and reclaim your health.

More than 75% of Americans cite being stressed on a regular basis. And that number jumps to 80% when Americans are asked about whether they feel stress at work. 

Many of us experience fatigue, irritability, or aches and pains as a result of ongoing stress in our work or other parts of our lives. 

But did you know that stress also impacts your weight? Researchers find a clear link between weight gain and stress. 

The connection between stress and weight gain

When stressed, your body releases more of the hormone cortisol. 

Cortisol is the hormone that helps you respond to a threat. When you perceive a threat, your adrenal glands release cortisol and those hormone levels remain elevated until you no longer sense a threat is near. Then, the levels return to normal. 

But cortisol levels can be elevated for dangerous amounts of time. If you feel stress on a daily basis, for many hours throughout the day, your body produces an excess of cortisol and doesn’t spend enough time in a relaxed state. As a result, you can feel hungrier than you normally would throughout the day.

It’s why many of us want to reach for ice cream, cookies, or our favorite chips when we feel stressed. We feel hungrier and want to eat something that will give us a surge of happiness to counter our elevated stress. 

As if that’s not enough, stress can also lower your metabolism. The combination of slower metabolism with increased appetite is a recipe for unintended weight gain.

How to know if stress is impacting your weight loss

Stress is most often looked at as a cause of weight gain after other factors like diet or an underlying condition have been ruled out. This usually comes up in the course of conversations with your doctor or specialist you’re working with to lose weight.

These are some of the symptoms of stress to help determine if this is in fact a factor in your weight:

  • Regular trouble sleeping and exhaustion
  • Aches and pains that seem otherwise inexplicable  
  • Headaches and tension in your shoulders, neck, and jaw (maybe even clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth)
  • Irritability 
  • High blood pressure 

How to reduce stress and get back to a healthy weight

Fortunately, stress can be remedied by building some healthier habits and better routines.

While many facets of your life might be difficult to change like work schedules and family responsibilities, there are steps you can take to reduce the stress that builds up from all of your responsibilities.

Plus, a few of the activities that help you relieve stress can also help you lose weight–getting you back on track for your weight loss goals even faster.

Below are 5 effective stress relievers to try if you think stress is impacting your weight loss journey:

  1. Exercise

Exercise does more than help you get fit and lose weight—it helps you reduce stress in a few ways:

  • Helps you focus on the present when you get caught up in the activity or game you participate in  
  • Releases endorphins—the feel-good neurotransmitters  
  • Reduces cortisol levels 
  • Improves your mood and boosts self-confidence

The best part is you don’t have to be an athlete to reap these benefits. Just 30 minutes of movement like walking, hiking, or swimming can give you stress-relieving benefits.

2. Sleep

Lack of sleep makes you more likely to be stressed. The reason is because of all the facets of our lives and health sleep impacts:

  • Mood regulation
  • Improved decision-making
  • Concentration

So, if you want to reduce stress, one of the ways to counteract feeling stressed is to get more sleep. 

Make sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night—the average recommended amount for adults.

3. Make time for non-work related connections with others

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine.” Well, it turns out that laughter is a bit like medicine. 

Multiple studies now show the power of laughter to reduce stress and improve our overall well-being. One study found that people who laughed more had less stress and better immune function. 

By making more time for friends and family who you find fun to be around, you reduce your stress levels and by extension, improve your health. So whether it’s getting together with friends for an evening or going on a day trip with family, time spent with people you can relax and laugh around will reduce your stress.

4. Find a creative outlet

Creativity is one of the best options to get yourself out of the routine of worrying about daily responsibilities.

A 2016 study found that when participants engaged in any creative outlet of their choosing for 45 minutes, their cortisol levels dropped by 75%

And you don’t have to be a professional artist or writer to experience these benefits. Anyone can create for fun and get the stress relief benefits of being creative.

5. Schedule time just for yourself

When we have a lot going on between work, family obligations, and personal responsibilities, it’s hard to find time to relax. This is especially true if you are introverted or need time to recharge after social events. 

One way to help is to schedule time for yourself that is non-negotiable. Give yourself 30 minutes every day that is uninterrupted time for you to decompress from the responsibilities of your day. You can journal, read a book, go for a walk, or do anything else that makes you feel relaxed and refreshed. Whatever activity you enjoy, taking that time for yourself will help you reduce daily stress levels.

Get help overcoming stress and weight gain

At Valley Medical Weight Loss we help make weight loss a far less stressful challenge. 

Our patients get results because of the personalized support they get from our doctors. When you choose us, you get weekly check-ins, diet planning, and exercise strategy that’s tailored to your health history and goals. We also help you select supplements to support your weight loss goals if they’re appropriate for your goals.

We can help you figure out if stress is impacting your weight loss journey and help you get a plan to overcome it.

Visit your closest Valley Medical Weight Loss for your initial consult.

stress awareness month

Reducing Stress: Your Key to Weight Loss

April is National Stress Awareness month. And while the definition of stress varies among individuals, a common theme is that stress not only prevents you from reaching your weight loss goals, it can do a number on your health in general.

One of the immediate ways stress contributes to weight gain is by tempting you to reach for comfort foods – like pizza or ice cream – that you may not crave if your stress levels were under control. We’ve all heard of emotional eating, right? Although some people tend to lose their appetite under high stress, many have an increased appetite for foods that are just not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Chronic stress also causes an increase in cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone and when your body is constantly pumping it out, it can make it more difficult to lose weight and lead to an increase in belly fat, particularly.

It’s not just weight that is a concern with high stress levels, though. Chronic stress is also linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few.

Managing Stress Levels

If there’s one thing you need to do today, it’s figure out the best ways for you to lower your stress levels, since managing stress is such a vital factor in taking control of your health. We wanted to make sure that you had a good idea of all the things you could do to help manage and/or reduce your stress levels so that you’d be armed with as many tools as you need – and so that you’d be able to find something or a combination of things that works for you. In today’s fast-paced, modern world, chronic stress has become the norm and we want to work to help you change that.

Once your stress levels are under control, you’ll be able to focus your attention on your eating plan and following the steps to help you reach your goals. Here are a few of our favorite tried and true stress reduction techniques.

Exercise

This one probably isn’t a big shocker, but it tops the list because it’s simple to incorporate and regular exercise has been shown to be just as effective as anti-depressants in some studies. Exercise increases endorphins, which are the feel-good chemicals in your body that help enhance your sense of well-being. To benefit from the stress-relief effects of exercise, you don’t have to hit the gym hard for 2 hours a day, 7 days a week. A thirty minute light walk in the morning or after dinner is enough to do the trick.

Social Contact

When you’re particularly stressed, it’s often tempting to hole yourself up and remove yourself from the world, but this can actually increase your stress levels. Social contact provides a distraction from daily stressors and your social network can serve as a support system. An added bonus – you’re more likely to laugh when spending time with family and friends whose company you enjoy and laughter is its own stress reliever. Laughter promotes physical changes in your body that can reduce your stress load and help get you feeling better.

Deep Breathing

When you’re stressed, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths that come from your chest rather than your abdomen. When you breathe deeply from your abdomen instead, you take in more oxygen which helps you feel less anxious, less short of breath, and more relaxed. Learning how to take deep breaths can take practice, and this is how you do it:

  1. Sit up straight or lie on your back somewhere comfortable. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Take deep breaths in through your nose. You should feel the hand on your abdomen start to rise, but the hand on your chest should move very little.
  2. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can. Repeat this process until you feel your body start to calm down.

Meditation

Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, reducing anxiety and making you more resilient to stress. There is no right or wrong way to meditate so don’t let your preconceived notions about what meditation is supposed to be deter you from starting your own practice. If you’re new to meditation, you can start by following along with some guided meditations. There are a plethora of videos available on YouTube for free to get you started.

Get a Massage

A relaxation massage not only works out the knots and tension that can build in your muscles following a period of chronic stress, the touch of a massage also helps release oxytocin – a neurotransmitter that helps make you feel good. Schedule a weekly or monthly relaxation massage and allow yourself to fully enjoy this treat.

Yoga

We get a little opposition when we mention the word yoga and we think it comes from the same misconceptions that surround meditation. Like meditation, yoga is a practice. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You don’t have to be flexible or zen to start. You develop these things once you get deeper into your yoga practice. Over time, yoga helps to reduce stress and anxiety and brings together body and mind.

Sleep

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it until you start doing it – get enough sleep! When you’re stressed, it’s easy to skimp out on sleeping in favor of getting work instead. Don’t do it! Sleep is the time when your brain and body repair and recharge and it is vital to managing your stress levels. Sleep also contributes to mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate. Make sure you’re hitting the sheet by 10 PM and getting 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.

Music

Listening to or playing your own music decreases stress hormones, reduces muscle tension, and provides mental distraction. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, crank up the volume on your radio and just let loose. Bonus points for dancing along to the tunes.

B Vitamins

Stress depletes the B vitamins in your body, which help you handle stress. In times of chronic stress, you should take a multi-vitamin or a B complex supplement, like this one, or schedule regular B12 injections to replenish these critical nutrients daily so that your tank doesn’t run out.