The causes of weight gain are many, but among the most destructive is stress. According to Edward Creagan of the Mayo Clinic, stress causes both emotional eating and a hormonal response that directly contribute to weight gain.
To ward off this response, you’ve got to be able to recognize the warning signs of stress and deal with them accordingly. In this article, you’ll discover how stress affects weight loss and learn some tips on how to effectively fight it.
The Hormone Cortisol Causes Belly Fat
The reason stress can cause you to gain weight unexpectedly has to do with a hormone called cortisol. Secreted by the adrenal glands, cortisol is part of your body’s “fight or flight” response and is responsible for raising blood glucose. When your body is under physical or emotional stress, high levels of cortisol are released, leading to the storage of fat—especially around your abdomen.
On top of all of that, cortisol also stimulates your appetite and can lead to overeating, doubling the chances that you’ll gain weight due to stress.
Lowering Stress Can Facilitate Weight Loss
By contrast, lowering stress can indirectly help to shed the pounds off of your belly. When your body is no longer secreting cortisol, you’re free to gain a fresh start and begin burning existing fat stores.
Lower stress is also responsible for higher amounts of energy, which can then be used during your workout to burn even more fat.
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Learn How to Lower Stress
The trick, then, is to learn how to lower your stress levels. This may seem impossible given your demanding lifestyle, but there are actually some simple techniques you can use to naturally reduce the amount of cortisol in your blood stream.
1. Picture Yourself Happy The first thing you should try to do for yourself when you feel stress taking over is to escape to the place in your mind that calms you. This could be a favorite vacation spot, a city you’ve always longed to travel to, or even something tangible, like a soft towel out of the dryer. Visualizing these de-stressors will take your mind away from your current circumstances and slowly help you to relax.
2. Hug or Touch Someone Sometimes the last moment you want to be touched is the moment you need it most. Just the act of snuggling with your significant other, embracing a friend, or stroking a pet can release higher levels of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for bonding and caring responses. This in turn makes you feel calmer and less anxious.
3. Breathe Deeply and Drink Water When you’re stressed, your breathing becomes shallow and tense. Instead, try to ease that tension by taking slow, deep breaths and exhaling through the lips. You should also try to drink more water. Getting about eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day will flush toxins out of your body and also increase your metabolism as your body starts working to warm the temperature. All of this leads to lower stress levels.
4. Get More Sleep You’ve heard this time and time again, but a good night’s sleep can really work wonders on your health. Not only can it keep you rested and your appetite in check, but sleeping for the full recommended eight hours can control cortisol production. According to a study at the German Institute for Aerospace Medicine, getting eight hours of sleep instead of the six hours that most Americans manage results in a fifty percent drop in cortisol.
5. Listen to Calming Music Sometimes de-stressing is as simple as turning on your iPod. Music calms the soul and regulates the heartbeat, and classical music has even been shown to produce calming effects that match what 10mg of Valium could do. What’s even better is that researchers at Japan’s Osaka Medical Center found that playing any kind of music cuts cortisol elevation by 66 percent, preventing future weight gain.
6. Try Meditation You may brush this suggestion off with a sarcastic “Ommmm,” but the truth is that meditation can actually decrease cortisol production by an average of 20 percent. Buddhist meditation has also been shown to decrease blood pressure, so the next time you feel like you’re drowning in life, you may want to take some time out to relax and strip away your stressful thoughts.
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