Most of our patients are dealing with some form of stress on a daily basis. When it comes to weight management, stress is your #1 enemy. Aside from throwing your hormones off balance, many Americans deal with stress by turning to their favorite comfort foods. We typically don’t go for the carrots and cucumbers when we’re frazzled, do we? Nope. We want the cake, cookies and chips. There is a physiological reason for this so know that you are not alone!
Sugar and calorie dense processed foods release dopamine and serotonin in our brains. These chemicals are “feel good neurotransmitters” that produce a feeling of pleasure and calmness. So it’s no wonder you run to the vending machine right after the boss chews you out for something that wasn’t your fault. During times of stress your body releases the hormone cortisol which increases hunger, signaling your body to eat something with a lot of calories. This is great when you need the energy to run from a predator, but not so helpful when you’re stressing over a work deadline (likely sitting long hours at a desk). Cortisol can also increase insulin levels which causes your blood sugar to drop. Low or unstable blood sugar in turn makes you crave more sugar and carbs. Insulin is also known as the “fat storage hormone” because it stores the excess sugar in your body as fat. See how stress causes your body to work against you when you’re trying to lose weight? If you want to lose weight, start with lowering your stress levels to help balance your hormones.
5 Ways To Get Your Stress Hormones Under Control
1.) Exercise. You’ve heard this time and time again, but it’s true! Moving your muscles around helps to circulate blood and push cortisol to your kidneys more quickly where it is flushed out of your system. One study found that 18 minutes of walking three times per week can quickly lower the hormone levels by 15%. Exercise also releases those feel good neurotransmitters so it’s a win-win situation!
2.) Avoid caffeine. When caffeine and stress are combined together, cortisol levels are higher than when a person is experiencing stress alone. In one study by the University of Oklahoma, consuming the equivalent of 2½ cups (20 oz) of coffee while under mild stress boosted cortisol by about 25% and kept it elevated for 3 hours.
3.) Sleep. Read the previous blog here for information on how sleep-or lack thereof- affects cortisol, ghrelin and leptin. All three of these hormones play a role in your weight.
4.) Eat. Yes, you need to eat to lose weight. Eating five small meals throughout the day will help lower cortisol levels by relieving “hunger stress”. This will also prevent caving to your cravings of sugar and calorie dense foods associated with high levels of cortisol.
5.) Breathe. Deep breathing is one of the quickest ways to relieve stress and lower cortisol levels. And you can do it anywhere! First, sit up straight and place one hand on your abdomen, then exhale completely to empty your lungs. Next, inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, expanding your abdomen to bring air into your lungs while expanding your chest and lifting your shoulders. Hold your breath as long as you comfortably can and then slowly exhale through your mouth while relaxing your chest and shoulders. Repeat a minimum of 5-6 times.
Other Quick and Easy Ways to Lower Stress
- Spend time with your pets
- Take a warm bath
- Go for a walk
- Watch a funny movie or TV show
- Put an uplifting song on
- Get a massage
- Call a friend
- Drink a hot cup of tea (decaf, of course)
- Cook a healthy meal (try the easy and stress-free recipe below)
- Do something artistic- there’s a reason why you see adult coloring books everywhere!
- Write down everything you are thankful for
- Clean and declutter your space
- Cook a healthy dish
- Burn scented candles or aromatherapy oils
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Have a little romance with your partner
- Read a book
- Read an inspirational quote (hello, Pinterest!)
- Get a manicure or pedicure
- Do 20 jumping jacks
- Disconnect from technology
- Give yourself an honest compliment
Planning out meals can help prevent turning to less healthy foods when stressed. Try this Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken recipe for a delicious, healthy meal!
Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken
- 24 oz (1 1/2) lbs chicken breast
- 14.4 oz can diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 oz frozen corn
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 14.4 oz can fat free chicken broth
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
1.) Combine chicken broth, beans (drained), corn, tomatoes, cilantro, scallions, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt in the crock pot. Season chicken breast with salt and lay on top.
2.) Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. Half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning to taste. Enjoy!
Here at Olivera Weight Management we strive to address the multitude of causes for weight gain to help patients reach their weight related goals. We offer an Integrative Program, a Primary Program, Individualized Nutrition Consultations, Lose It (an 8-week program to kick-start your weight loss) as well as other services. Please visit our website for more detailed information and pricing. You can also send us a message or call us today at 773-327-6624.
Recipe from www.skinnytaste.com.