I woke up this morning thinking about my fascination with food and the whole weight loss conundrum. There was a time years ago when I mistakenly believed I had the weight thing all figured out. That lasted all of 30 seconds!
I think this morning's thoughts were spurred by conversation I shared with a dear friend yesterday. She has been caught in her own weight loss struggles since childhood and was excited about concepts she had learned from Dr Berg, a chiropractor specializing in weight loss based on body type, who attributes most weight struggles to our hormones. Sounds reasonable. I took his test and was categorized as an Adrenal body type, which means my weight struggles are most likely attributable to stress, adrenal hormones such as high cortisol levels and lack of sleep. Sounds like most of America, doesn't it?
I've several articles about stress, cortisol and weight gain. It makes perfect sense and traces back to our ancient survival programming that's hardwired deep within us. Basically our bodies and brains still function as if our major stressors were physical (saber-tooth tigers) instead of mental (traffic jams and overdue credit cards.) Here's a great article from WebMD that explains it all beautifully. Increased stress hormones make us hungry so are bodies are ready to survive the next lurking predator. Unfortunately, fretting doesn't doesn't burn calories the way fleeing a lion, tiger or bear does 🙂
Then I got to thinking more about stress and weight. Does stress always lead to weight gain? Does everyone who experiences stress gain weight? Is it the stress that causes the weight gain or is it our reaction to the stress? Have we learned to comfort ourselves with food when we are stressed? Is that the real problem? Is it a habit we can change?
The two biggest periods of stress in my life to date - my divorce from Michael and Bob's death - resulted in my losing weight. My body was pumping out stress hormones, but I was too emotionally distraught to eat. (Something I hadn't previously realized was possible.) So, for me stress and weight gain are not always linked.
But what about ongoing low level everyday stress: deadlines, traffic, job/financial woes, family struggles? I definitely have a history of using food for relief in these situations. I go for the salty, crunchy and creamy stuff. Crackers, chips, cheese, nuts, candy, ice cream are my comfort foods of choice. And then, of course, there's wine 🙂
Stress isn't going away in our world any time soon. So, what can we do to minimize its negative effects?
What Can You Do About Stress Hormones and Weight Gain?
According to WebMD:
- walking and yoga are my go to choices. (They make me feel good. My natural mood lifters.)
- meals and snacks that include lots of vegetables, lean protein and small amounts of healthy carbs and fat. (This can be a challenge when you're craving french fries and chocolate cake.)
Plenty of Sleep
- lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise increasing hunger. (Getting more rest is something a lazy girl like me relishes!)
- find fun things to do that calm you down. (I like to read, cook, watch funny movies, meet Mom or friends for lunch, get a manicure or massage.) More formal relaxation techniques - breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, tai chi - are great too.
- if you are hungry and feel you must snack choose whole grains and high fiber foods. (Again, this can be a challenge when your brain is screaming CHOCOLATE.)
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
- they can increase cortisol, insulin, blood sugar, etc. I try to use these in moderation, but I can't imagine ever avoiding them completely, especially wine. (I'm a natural born introvert. A little wine lowers my inhibitions and makes me more social. I might be even more reclusive without it.)
7. Take your Vitamins
- stress leads to the depletion of vitamins and minerals so you need to fortify yourself, especially with the B vitamins and C. (I need to get better about this.)
*PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT Weight Watchers Zero Points fruits and vegetables using the WW Recipe Builder.
What has been your experience with Stress, Hormones and Weight Gain?
What are your secrets for minimizing the negative effects of stress?
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