How Your Stress Level Impacts Your Weight and What to Do About It
“I’m doing everything right but I’m still not losing weight.”
Does this sound like you? If so, you’re not alone as this is something I commonly hear when coaching women who are actively working on losing weight. The culprit just might be your stress level is holding you back from achieving your weight loss or even weight maintenance goals.
We all know that too much stress has health impacts, but it is a contributing saboteur when it comes to weight in two ways:
- Increased cortisol that kicks in to produce a “fight or flight” mode to protect your body from danger (and your body doesn’t know if your boss is driving you nuts or you are in true imminent danger). This temporarily pauses some of your body’s functions and slows down your metabolism–exactly the opposite of what you need to happen for weight purposes.
- Another impact of increased cortisol is that it is an appetite stimulant. Especially nasty is the fact that it increases your cravings for sugar, fat and salt and makes it tough to keep less than stellar food choices at bay. Now you know there’s a reason why they call it “stress eating.”
So since you might be under a lot of stress simply from dealing with all the changes you’re experiencing from going through perimenopause or menopause, how do you reduce the impact of this cortisol one-two punch?
Actively manage stress
The most common answer I get when I ask “what do you do to manage any stress you feel” is “nothing.” That’s the problem! There are many self care things we do everyday, but somehow, taking steps to actively dissipate the stress that builds up over the course of the day is often not one of them.
The simplest step is to carve out some “me time” dedicated to doing something that makes you feel relaxed and happy. Whether it’s a bubble bath, a short walk outside, coloring a picture, blasting some of your favorite tunes in your car and singing along, or whatever floats your boat, you need at least a few minutes daily that’s spent this way as an antidote to any stress that might have built up during your day, Move yourself up on your priority list!
Don’t Expect Your Life to Be Stress Free
You’re not going to be able to control and eliminate all the stress in your life. However, you can control your response to it. When something comes up in your day that gets you going, acknowledge it and try to reframe your thoughts about it. For example, suppose you just got off a call that stressed you out. I had this happen to me recently when I called my health insurer to find a provider when their website was giving me inaccurate information and the customer service was abominable.
After you hang up, you can check in with yourself and acknowledge that it was a doozy of a call. Then you can think about what you want your reaction to really be. Can you take action to do something about what made you feel stressed during the call? In my case, I gave poor feedback on the rep in the after call survey and then vented a bit to my husband. If there isn’t a clear action to take, you can try to find the humor in the situation, or simply take a few deep breaths and shake it off. Anything that helps you feel more in control of the situation will help.
Be Mindful About Eating When You Know You’re Stressed
Ever find yourself suddenly rummaging the fridge or kitchen cabinets when you’re stressed and not even hungry? You’re likely feeling the effects of cortisol cravings for sugar, fat or salt on a stressful day. In fact, it’s likely not the first time you’ve done that and your brain is now hard-wired in seeking out these items for comfort which makes it even more challenging to course correct. The good news is that being mindful that you’re under a lot of stress and more likely to make more junk food choices is half the battle.
Each time you recognize that you’re stress eating and take a different action, will help weaken the connection the next time around. You can choose to eat something that’s a better choice instead of the knee-jerk reaction craved item. For example, a taste of high cacao dark chocolate instead of a slice of cake. Or you can leave the kitchen and choose a non-food stress-busting action like the ones shared earlier in this piece. Either way, you’ll help your scale be more of a friend than foe and take your stress level down a few notches.
About Coach Melanie, NBC-HWC
Melanie Jordan is a Nationally Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC) with 12+ years of coaching and corporate wellness program experience for digital health start-ups, top health insurers, and her own private practice Your Healthy Life Made Easy LLC. Melanie specializes in working holistically with business professionals to become as successful at healthfully losing weight for good and transforming their overall health as they are in their careers.
Get a free copy of Melanie’s short book Weight Loss Secrets Revealed for the Healthiest and Happiest You 2nd Edition (a former #2 Kindle bestseller in weight loss and weight maintenance) as a thank you for reading the Membrasin® Blog.