When thinking about weight loss, the majority of people immediately think about how to change their diet or exercise routines. However, this approach to losing weight is severely limited. Why? Because it fails to consider the impact of multiple additional factors in our lives and health alike.
One such factor is stress. From changing our appetite to disrupting our bodies and habits, stress can interfere with weight loss and healthy living in a number of ways.
Note that stress by itself is not a bad thing. Historically, in ancient humans, it was a natural, necessary “flight or fight” response to perceived threats. The problem is that our bodies now react to the stress of the 21st century the same way they would have responded to, say, dangerous wildlife.
This means that when our bodies react to modern-day stressors, stress-related hormones - such as adrenaline and cortisol - are released on a chronic basis (compared to the limited batches that our bodies were designed to handle). The results and symptoms ultimately vary from person to person. However, a number of these various symptoms can contribute to the risk of weight gain. For example:
- Changes in appetite. Shifting hormone levels can directly impact our appetites. Some people experience a suppressed appetite. The majority of people, however, feel a desire to eat more, primarily due to elevated levels of cortisol. Either way, any stress that interferes with our regular eating habits can thwart our meal planning and negatively affect our weight in the long run.
- Changes in sleep. Stress can make it difficult to fall, and stay, asleep. This then acts as a double whammy; when we’re tired, we tend to want to eat more to generate extra energy and get through our day. Plus, a lack of sleep can actually cause our natural metabolism to slow down. The result of either - or both - of these events? Potential weight gain.
- Changes in mood. Stress definitely affects our mood, to varying degrees. Irritability, memory issues, and even clinical anxiety and depression are all more likely to develop as a result of long-term exposure to stress. This is concerning for many reasons - including because mood disorders can increase the risk of an individual gaining weight.
- Changes in exercise habits. Finally, stress tends to drain our energy and make us want to rest. Unfortunately, this leads to many people skipping their workouts. And less exercise means more potential weight gain.
Clearly, stress can create a number of problematic symptoms that may affect our weight and health overall. Because of this, experts agree that stress management is a critical part of healthy living and weight-loss regimens. That means:
- Maintaining a regular exercise routine (which helps reduce stress and support healthy weight loss or maintenance)
- Eating right on a regular basis (as healthy foods boost our mood and support healthy weight loss or maintenance)
- Engaging in deep breathing and relaxation techniques (which helps to reduce stress)
- Investing in personal time and fun activities (which helps to reduce stress)
- Maintaining a strong support network with friends and family is critical (which helps to reduce stress and supports good mental health)
Are you unsure about how to put this information into action? Do you have questions about what stress management should look like in your life? Consider making an appointment to meet with our team.
Right Weight Center is a physician-directed medical weight loss program that offers affordable help. With our board-certified staff, custom plans and FDA approved tools, our team can help you stay focused and achieve your weight loss goals. And we would be happy to discuss stress management, and/or recommendations for additional stress-related care.
Ready to get started? Just call us at 301-345-7885, or walk in during our office hours!