Why Stress Makes Us Fat and Unhealthy
Stress is a part of all of our lives, some more than others. When we feel stressed, our bodies react by releasing hormones, one of which is cortisol. We go into “fight or flight” mode, which is a built-in mechanism that is supposed to protect us from impending danger. However, in the case of chronic stress, we are experiencing a frequent release of cortisol, which can affect our health negatively by:
- slowing metabolism  
- increasing blood pressure 
- impairing thyroid function 
- lowering immunity 
- increasing visceral (belly) fat, which is associated with the dangerous condition of metabolic syndrome  
- decreasing insulin sensitivity, which increases the risk for diabetes  
- causing insomnia 
- increasing risk of cardiovascular disease  
- increasing instance of digestive issues 
And this is just the physical response of our bodies, not taking into account the high-calorie emotional eating that many of us tend to do when we are under stress.
Because of this, it is absolutely vital in this modern world of meetings, carpool, deadlines, school and kids that we learn to effectively manage stress, and especially so if your goal is weight loss. If you are consistently stressed out, your body is creating a metabolic and hormonal environment that is not friendly for weight loss, and can even cause weight gain.
How to Reduce Stress
So for weight loss as well as overall health, here are 50 ways to reduce stress.
- Sleep 7-9 hours each night. Sleep removes cortisol from our system.
- Do yoga.
- Eat whole, healthy foods that provide energy.
- Prepare meals ahead of time in large portions, refrigerate and freeze so you can grab and go. Learn how here.
- Have dinner with a good friend.
- Write in a journal.
- Watch a funny movie or TV show.
- Listen to good music. The more mellow and calming, the better.
- Play a board game with your kids or partner.
- Stay active during the work day. Here are ideas and 21 ways to stay healthy in the workplace.
- Have sex.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation by tensing and releasing every muscle from your head to your toes.
- Go for a walk outdoors.
- Practice deep breathing by taking a deep breath in through your nose and blowing out in a controlled manner, like you’re making a candle flame flicker.
- Make sure you eat when you’re hungry.
- Create a vision board.
- Practice guided imagery or self-hypnosis.
- Lift some weights or do bodyweight workouts at home.
- Do a commitment analysis and find what you can give up.
- Laugh – go to a comedy club or spend the day with someone who makes you laugh.
- Practice meditation by closing your eyes and getting in touch with the present moment. Here is meditation for beginners.
- Get a massage or ask someone close to you to give you one.
- Read a good book.
- Play a game of touch football, soccer, or basketball with friends or family.
- Turn off the news or news websites.
- Get a pet or spend time with someone else’s.
- Plant a garden.
- Go for a challenging bike ride.
- Practice daily self-affirmation in the mirror. Learn to accept yourself.
- Hug someone you love.
- Take a mental health day. Stay home and relax.
- Write down all of the things you are thankful for daily. Here are more rules to live by for health and happiness.
- Create something-a painting, a poem, a dessert-the possibilities are endless.
- Visit an aquarium and watch the fish.
- Talk to a therapist.
- Don’t ignore problems – deal with them and move on.
- Reevaluate your diet and exercise. Too much of a calorie deficit and overexercising can both increase stress and cortisol! Are you eating enough calories to lose weight? Find out here.
- Lay in the sunshine for a bit. Vitamin D will help with stress.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine increases your stress level, despite what you may think.
- Lower your standards. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Just smile.
- Dance like no one is watching (maybe make sure no one is watching?)
- Take a hot bath or shower.
- Organize a hot spot of your home.
- Do it now – don’t procrastinate!
- Ask yourself if a problem needs to be dealt with right now, and then forget it until it does.
- Surround yourself with positive people.
- Ask for help.
- Foam roll or self-massage. Read how here.
Question: How do you relieve stress?