Stress & Weight

As a busy mother of three, I know what it feels like to be pulled in many different directions.  Trying to balance health and wellness with career and family responsibilities can feel challenging and even stressful at times.  However, it is important to make time to manage stress levels. 

Stress is a normal part of life, but it can prevent you from losing weight in different ways; Whether it is because of hormonal changes, stress eating/buffering, or a combination of the two, there is a clear link between weight gain and stress.

We have known for many years that rises in cortisol can lead to weight gain.  Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. When you are stressed or sense danger, your adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline to help you become safe from danger.  In the short run, this “fight or flight response” improves cognition, immune function, tolerance to pain, and even strength. However, over time there is a prolonged “submit and stay” stress response that is not protective.  This chronic stress can lead to:

·  Increase in insulin resistance,

·  Increase in blood pressure,

·  Increase in food craving,

·  Increase in abdominal fat,

·  Increase systemic inflammation,

·  Possible decrease in antibody producing cells.

In addition to hormonal changes from stress, stress can lead to other unhealthy behaviors as well, for example:

·  Chronic stress can increase hunger. 

·  Chronic stress can lead to an increase in urges and buffering (see past blog)-you might eat or drink as a way to temporarily escape stress, but it inadvertently makes these behaviors more automatic when doing this.

·  Stress can lead to hyper-focus on one thing over healthful behaviors.

·  Stress can promote unhealthy immediately rewarding foods over more healthful delayed gratification foods.

·  Stress can make it harder to get good sleep, which can increase appetite.

When you are feeling stressed, it is important to maintain a schedule to prioritize healthy behaviors even (and especially!) when you feel that you do not have time.  For example:

·  Find time to move or exercise,

·  Prioritize sleep,

·  Spend some time in nature, 

·  Fuel your body with real food,

·  Stay in touch with your hunger,

·  Keep a journal, 

·  Preplan your food,

·  Anticipate obstacles,

·  Drink more water,

·  Do not beat yourself up/be kind to yourself,

·  Make time for self-coaching work,

·  Make time to meditate, pray, or practice relaxation techniques.

Stress is a normal part of life, but it is worth keeping your stress in check. Consider writing a list of ways that you can unwind and destress and make sure you are prioritizing these things in your life. 

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*Sarah Smith MD is a medical doctor, but she is not your doctor, and she is not offering medical advice in this blog.  If you are in need of professional advice or medical care, you must seek out the services of your own doctor or health care professional.

Are you ready to break free from the diet mentality and lose weight permanently?

Are you ready to break free from the diet
mentality and lose weight permanently?

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Get started today with Sarah Smith, MD’s free guide “12 Steps to Start Losing Weight For the Last Time.”

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About Sarah Smith, MD

I am a weight loss coach for busy women and I have helped hundreds of women lose weight. My coaching is not the same old restrictive diet; it is a new and comprehensive approach blending the latest science with weight coaching. Together we will work to achieve permanent weight loss success.

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