Stress and Weight Loss: Connection?

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We’ve all fallen victim to “stress eating” from time to time, right? Whether we do it when we’re overworked, filled with anxiety, emotional, or simply tired or bored, we’ve all grabbed a bag of goodies when we aren’t physically hungry and chomped away. We often don’t make great decisions in times like these because our brains are occupied with the stressors of the day.

There’s also “mindless eating,” or distracted eating. Have you ever sat down to watch your favorite TV show and then looked down at an empty bag of chips in your lap? That’s what we’re talking about. (Check out some tips to foster Mindful Eating Habits.)

The Healthy Wage Challenge starts this Friday! Congrats to all participating! Stress eating and mindless eating can really sabotage weight loss, so as the Healthy Wage Challenge begins, managing stress will help us maximize our success.

A big step to finding and maintaining a healthy weight is taking control of the stress in our lives. We know stress has a huge impact on our health and it is a behavior change that needs to be managed or it can lead to risk factors for heart disease or stroke. The good news is stress is not all bad, and we can manage it!

Different Types of Stress

Stress is defined according to the American Institute of Stress as a physical, mental or emotional strain or tension. We all experience stress on a daily basis. Learning to identify, manage, and understand the different types of stress is the key to better health!

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Technostress: emails, chats, messages; it won’t stop! Technostress can take over when we’re connected 24/7 to technology. Working with the computer, checking facebook, email, having our iPhones in our pockets all day every day; it can really take a toll. We risk information overload, which can become pretty stressful.

Additionally, technology isn’t always 100% reliable. When our work is dependent on transactions through the web, and something goes wrong, we get stressed. We’ve all experienced this to some degree in our plugged-in lifestyles, especially in the Bay Area, where it seems technology permeates every part of our lives.

Eustress: engagement, marriage, a new promotion at work, making new friends, winning the lottery, and a new baby are all examples of Eustress. This is good stress, it allows us to view the stressors in life as “challenges” rather than “obstacles.” Despite these events being stressful, they’re the good parts of life that motivate and excite us.

Acute stress: you’re getting chased by ZOMBIES!! RUN!!!! Acute stress results from a specific situation, a difficult moment in time. Your body prepares for fight or flight — stay and defend or run away. After becoming acutely stressed, the body needs time to recover and it takes about 90 minutes to return back to a normal, comfortable state.

Chronic stress: bills, bills, and more bills, the added responsibility of a new job, dealing with a two year old going through the delightful phase of tantrums, are all examples of chronic stress.

Most worrisome for your health, chronic stress detrimentally affects your immune system, which means you are more susceptible to getting sick. Chronic stress has a negative effect on the physical body — it’s not all in your head. Your heart pounds, blood pressure is elevated, muscles tense, and your cortisol levels are chronically high.

It’s risky for our bodies to have chronically high levels of cortisol, as inflammation and catabolic disorders can occur including: thyroid and metabolic dysfunction, cognitive decline, depression due to the low serotonin levels, anxiety, and carbohydrate cravings. When not managed, chronically increased cortisol levels in the body lead to risk factors such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, and adrenal fatigue.

Stress Be Gone!

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We’re always given an opportunity to make a choice and take the reigns in our lives. Changing our view point and having an awareness of how we react to challenges that arise makes the difference in our health in a positive way. Rather than stressing out because the internet is down (technostress), and instead taking a meditation or stretch break, we allow ourselves to relax — letting the stress be gone!

The good news is that we aren’t leaving you empty-handed! We have tools and tricks to help us manage our stress! The American Psychological Association offers some great advice, and I’ve added a few to the list, which I use myself –these really do work! Pick one tip from this list to start with this week, and then come back and try another one once you’ve incorporated it into your life.

  1. Read a book: time with yourself can be the best way to relax. Reading lets you travel in time with the words on the page.
  2. Take a timeout: stop, breathe, and count to 10. This trick is especially useful in acutely stressful situations and/or when you need to give an immediate response. Stop, breath, then respond. Remember it’s okay to say no!
  3. Nap time: naps aren’t just for kids, we need them too. A 30 minute snooze can make the biggest difference by calming your nerves and lowering your blood pressure.
  4. Pet therapy: pets are the best! They photo.PNGgive you unconditional love and are wonderful snuggle partners. I don’t have a pet, but I’m always getting the pet love just by walking down the street and stopping to pet a pooch. Check out our post on why pets are good for your health.
  5. Exercise: blowing off steam through physical activity does wonders for stress. Get your body moving with a walk in the woods, a run around the lake, or a night out dancing for at least 30 minutes– it does the trick.
  6. SMILE! The random act of smiling is a great practice! Play a game with yourself and smile at everyone you walk past. In the age of technology, the true act of interacting with one another is slowly fading.
  7. Meditate: it’s all about the breath. Let yourself be still and simply breathe. It doesn’t have to be a long meditation session. Any amount of time you give has the potential to de-stress your mind and body. I stop and breathe for minute every morning before I leave the house. Yup, just 1 minute makes the difference in my day. Meditating can be short and easy!
  8. Unplug: Have a set time not to answer emails or calls, especially work related. The iPhone can be set up to allow the calls you want and ignore the calls you don’t want. Click here to learn how.

We all have daily stressors in our lives, which effects our health poorly. Remember it’s how we roll with the punches that makes the difference. As Epictetus said brilliantly, “people are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.”

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