How to Control Stress and Weight Gain

Stressed out?  Well, that goes for most of us and most of us don’t even know we are.  Everyday life has become so fast paced that sometimes it is even hard to catch up.  Day to day stresses have become so normal to us. They can have physiological responses that can be detrimental to our health and well-being.  (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037)

When we live a stressful lifestyle and we don’t have good habits to cope with the stress, our cortisol levels stay at a heightened level.  This chronic level of cortisol will make you overeat and store the fat created in the abdominal area increasing your chances of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In my previous blog, I explained what the big fat idea about stress was.  Now, let’s give you tips on how to manage that stress and combat cortisol driven weight gain.

Steps to Relieve Stress and Cortisol Levels

The way people cope with stress varies per person.  Incorporating healthy habits to relieve stress will also relieve your body of heightened levels of cortisol that can store fat in your mid-line.  Try to incorporate some of these healthy habits in your daily routine,

Take a deep breath once in awhile

When people are stressed they tend to shallow breathe quickly.  Taking the time to breathe properly has a natural calming effect.  Try taking 10 deep breaths periodically during the day.

Have a good night’s rest

Sleep helps your body recover from all the stresses you had all day.  Not getting enough sleep will keep more cortisol in your blood stream.  8 hours of sleep is the recommended amount for your average person.  There are some people that need even more than 8 hours, especially teenagers.  Lack of sleep will make you gain weight.  If you can’t get the recommended 8 hours sleep then take a nap.  Naps help your body refresh.  My son Dalton can take a nap and be a totally different person when he wakes if he has had a stressful day.  Like father like son ☺.

Controlling what you eat

Nutrition can have an impact on how you feel by causing serotonin to release.  Eating lean meats, nuts, complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, vegetables and oily fish like salmon that is rich in omega 3’s will help eliminate cortisol induced cravings without adding the fat.  Vitamin C rich foods also help control stress.  Cravings from cortisol are usually sweets and fatty foods. (http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-for-stress-management)  

Exercise

Besides losing weight, regular exercise helps battle cortisol.  This means exercising 3 to 5 times a week.  You can go to the gym or take a walk in downtown Chattanooga.  There are many trails for bikes and walking/running at Enterprise Nature Park at Volkswagen Plant. Take a look around Chattanooga; there are many fun activities you can incorporate in your exercise regimen.  I take my sons, Gavin and Dalton, geocache treasure hunting.  It’s an app for your phone that tells you with GPS where to find treasures people hide.  I make sure it’s a little hike for them to find the treasure to get some exercise while having fun.

Massage

Massage is a great stress reducer.  Taking tension out of your muscle and just relaxing can do wonders for your body.  Making it a habit will keep your cortisol under control and make you feel great by helping your body release dopamine ( http://www.news-medical.net/health/Dopamine-Functions.aspx) and serotonin (http://www.livestrong.com/article/154361-effects-of-serotonin-on-the-body/) .

Mental Outlook

Always try to accentuate the positives in life not the negatives.  Visualize a great day, a happy you and a healthy you.  When you have a very stressful day taking the time to meditate and clear your mind can change a bad day into a refreshing one.

All people cope with stress in different ways.  How to control stress and weight gain is by having good habits that limit overproduction of cortisol.  Living a stress free lifestyle is next to impossible.  But having habits that positively cope with stress is achievable by anyone and should be regular part of your daily routine.

Written by:

Christopher M. Lewis, D.C.