Struggling To Lose Weight? Are You Addressing The Biggest Culprit?

Often we blame food and a lack of exercise for these additional few pounds. And it's undeniably true that in order to be slim and fit we need to pay attention to what we eat and move on a regular basis. 

Yet there is one more critical factor involved in our war on fat: STRESS! More and more studies prove the connection between stress and fat, especially the visceral fat around our bellies.

Stress leads to a weight gain in a few ways:
  • It increases our cravings for sugary carbs and fatty foods.
  • It compromises our ability to digest food.
  • It disrupts body’s response to leptin, hormone responsible for feeling full, which causes that we overeat.
  • It makes our body to be stingy with using calories and to store them primarily in the form of fat around the belly.
  • It releases a chain of hormonal responses throughout the body.
This stems from our ancestors. If they were being chased by a bear, their adrenals shifted instantly into fight-or-flight mode, releasing adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones helped to give them superhuman strength and quickly mobilized energy production from carbs and fats. Once the threat was gone, their instincts made them to re-fuel with calorie-dense foods, which are easily stored as fat. 

Back then, stress response was designed to protect us and help us survive in a dangerous environment. What's changed is that our modern-day stress doesn’t require fleeing or fighting and we generally don’t need all the extra calories our bodies make available. What’s more, many of us exist in a state of constant stress, operating under elevated cortisol levels over extended periods of time.

So if you struggle to lose pounds you should try to reduce stress. There's no magic one-size-fits-all stress reduction plan, but some general techniques should help:

1. Breathe. Three to four deep breaths through your nose can slow your heart rate and calm you down. Find time during your day to just breathe, especially when you feel stressed.

2. Try meditating. Cultivate the habit! Start with five minutes in the morning, and gradually work up to half an hour.

3. Get more sleep. If you don't get enough, or if your quality of sleep is poor, you are more likely to gain weight, partly because the sleep-deprived body craves carbs for quick energy and partly because glucose metabolism is affected

4. Incorporate stress-reducing foods. If you're under stress, foods that soothe nerves may help. Stay away from refined sugars, eat adequate protein, and make sure to consume magnesium-rich greens, lots of vitamin C, and plenty of omega-3 fats (found in many seafoods, nuts and seeds, and beans). 

5. Do exercise you love. Exercise helps to reduce stress, as long as you're enjoying it, but try not to push yourself hard. Find something you love and just do it. Even a half an hour walk every day can help.

6. Play. Many of us forget just how relaxing and reenergizing a few hours of fun or a good laugh can be. Try to make having fun a priority! Go out and play!

7. Examine your priorities. What's your purpose here? What do you want to accomplish? Do you appreciate all the good things that occur? If you haven't taken time to consider these, do so. Having a broader vision keeps you out of the small stressors of daily life and makes living more enjoyable overall. 

Good luck and keep me posted! 
 
 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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