Is Stress Making You Fat?

28 Jan

The word “stress” is a daily part of my exchanges. It seems I am either telling someone about my own stress or listening to clients, friends, and family members talk about theirs. We are a chronically stressed out society. We work late, worry much, and push our health and well-being to the bottom of our very long to-do lists.

This is no good because it turns out chronic stress is bad news. It wreaks havoc on our bodies. One of the biggest bummers about chronic stress is a nasty little hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is one of our “fight or flight” hormones. It is released during stressful situations to prepare the body to fight or flee. Since today’s stressful situations are more likely to be a meeting with your boss or an overdue bill and not a run-in with a mountain lion, cortisol release doesn’t always serve us well. Cortisol is all fine and good when stress is low and it is operating normally. But when stress is chronic, cortisol is elevated constantly which leaves your body totally outta whack.

A few of the harmful effects of chronically elevated cortisol:

  • Encourages fat to accumulate in your tummy area
  • Spikes hunger and cravings for high-calorie foods
  • Causes digestive problems
  • Weakens the immune system
  • Leads to whole body inflammation (inflamm = diseases)
  • Disrupts sleep and causes chronic fatigue and depression symptoms

In short, our crazy stressed out lives are making us fat, sick, and unhealthy!Β Since life’s stressors, whatever yours may be, probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, we need to do a few things alleviate our bodies from the destruction of stress.

Two Steps to Stress Less:

  • Master stress management

    • This can mean different things to different people, so find what works for you. I’ll give you a few research-supported stress management ideas: deep breathing is the easiest way to lower the stress response in your body. Take a few minutes during particularly stressful parts of your day to take deep inhales and exhales. Trust me, it works! Exercise is also a proven stress management tactic, as well as meditation and yoga. Find what helps you keep your cool and do it!
  • Anti-inflammatory nutrition

    • That’s right, food can help you stress less! Like I said, chronic stress creates overall inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to a host of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and digestive diseases. By swapping pro-inflammatory foods for anti-inflammatory foods, you can help your body beat stress.
    • Pro-inflammatory (stressful) Foods:
      • low fiber carbohydrates (think “simple sugar” processed foods)
      • saturated fat
      • trans fat
      • caffeine
      • alcohol
    • Anti-inflammatory (calming) Foods:
      • high fiber carbohydrates (whole grains)
      • whole plant foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and beans)
      • omega-3 fats (walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, salmon)

So what the heck should you do? Here’s how I manage my stress…

Yoga and deep breathing

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Try it: close your eyes and inhale to the count of 4, hold for a sec, then exhale to the count of 6 and hold for a sec. Do this 5 times for instant stress relief!

This is where I transport myself when I breathe deep πŸ™‚

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And gobs of anti-inflamm grub

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Don’t let stress hold you back from being the healthiest you you can be! I’m going to state the obvious, but it must be said: you only get ONE body to live in, so take care of it for goodness sake!

Now go take 5 deep breaths, eat some walnuts, put a couple cucumber slices over your eyes, and relax. It just might save your life πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

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One Response to “Is Stress Making You Fat?”

  1. Mom January 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    Thank you!!!! I needed this gentle reminder. πŸ™‚
    Can’t wait to see you tomorrow. Love ya!!

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