“If you’re looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life.”
Andreas Eenfeldt MD, Blogger Extraordinaire, God of Low-Carb, General Legend.
We all know how bad stress is for us: it really is the bane of modern existence. Stress has been blamed for just about every malady under the sun, from skin irritations and backache to viral infections and cancer; from high blood pressure and heart attacks to mental-health problems and premature ageing. And yes, weight gain is another. (As are digestive problems.)
Whether you’re looking to lose a few kilograms or not, dealing with stress should be an ongoing priority for your overall happiness. Of course, exercising (non-stressfully) and sleeping well contribute hugely to this – but you know that by now, right?
The Hormonal Explanation
When we are put in stressful situations our bodies pump out high levels of cortisol and adrenaline, as well as endorphins to some extent. In our hunter-gatherer days this was the concoction needed when confronted by imminent danger. The blood supply to the muscles would increase, the heart’s output would get a boost and our blood-sugar levels would spike so that we had a ready supply of fuel to burn. Then some kind of physical reckoning would take place: we’d either battle the bear (fight) or we’d run away as fast as our little legs could carry us (flight).
Today our bodies respond to all sorts of modern stimuli – be it driving in traffic, working on deadline, or shouting at your neighbour – with the instinctive stress responses of old, but they are seldom validated by a physical conclusion. As a result, all that pumped-up cortisol and adrenaline stays in our system longer than it should. Many of us are thus chronically stressed, with high cortisol levels keeping our insulin levels elevated and increasing the likelihood of us developing insulin resistance, among other things.
Over time both cortisol and adrenaline (indirectly) increase deposits of belly fat. This body fat in turn secretes leptin, which is supposed to prevent you from eating, but the higher the belly fat, the worse leptin works. In such cases it can actually end up working like ghrelin, the hunger hormone; this is known as leptin resistance – or you can consider it chronic hunger.
Needless to say, the more weight you put on the more likely you are to be chronically stressed, which means you’re more likely to put on more weight because you’re chronically hungry… And as the sugar-sweetened cherry on top, stress can diminish thyroid function, which decreases basal metabolism and makes it even harder to lose weight.
Restoring Balance and Returning to Happiness
In certain ways, stress and stress management are a microcosm – or snapshot – of the greater lifestyle pie. There are many interconnected variables and there is an argument for including elements mentioned below, such as meditation, mindfulness and social interaction, as their own separate pieces of the pie. Certainly, there have been many books about and studies performed on these individual topics.
We have chosen to include them under the umbrella of de-stressing both for sake of ease and because they are different answers to the same question: how can we relax and be happy?
As with the lifestyle pie, we believe the answer lies in restoring balance to our lives – and to do this we need to address all of our Maslovian-like needs:
6 Ways to De-Stress
In short, do what makes you happy – in a constructive, positive way.
De-stressing will improve almost every health aspect of your life. Importantly, in the context of Real Meal Revolution, it will also help you to lose weight. So take some time to self-assess and work out how best to manage your stress. You may have to make some hard decisions to better allocate your time and emotional energy, but it will be absolutely worthwhile.