According to Michelle Hall, founder of the New Zealand Mind Body Nutrition practice, Say health, stress can hinder thousands of Kiwi weight loss efforts. Financial, relationship, and job pressures are all hot buttons, and there is additional uncertainty from this year’s Covid-19 – extra big pressure for many Kiwis.
International Stress Awareness Month – and Michelle wants to use this achievement to increase understanding of the relationship between stress and weight gain, and what New Zealanders can do.
According to Michelle, who advocates a holistic, non-dietary approach to health, most people understand the role of food and exercise. However, stress is often overlooked when it comes to nutrition and weight management.
“When we experience constant stress, our bodies release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to prepare our bodies for action. When hormones like cortisol stay high, insulin levels increase, which results in lowering our blood sugar levels, ”says Michelle.
“This makes us more susceptible to eating” comfort foods “like chocolate or ice cream because we start to crave sweet and fatty foods, and therefore we are more likely to reach for those comfort foods.”
Michelle explains that it’s not just about extra calories. Stress can actually slow down the body’s ability to burn fat and build muscle.
“You can eat the healthiest and most balanced diet but if you eat it under any stress level you may have lowered the nutritional value of your food which can affect your metabolism,” he said.
“The same switch that activates the stress response in the brain – the sympathetic nervous system, shuts down digestion – reduces nutrient assimilation, and slows down our day-to-day calorie burning ability, decreasing our ability to burn fat and build muscle, deregulate mood, release stress chemicals. including insulin and cortisol which can increase fat storage, decrease blood flow to the intestines and more. “
This is reflected in global research, including: a 2015 study from State Ohio University, which found that, on average, women who reported one or more causes of stress during the previous 24 hours had burns 104 calories less
than women who are not stressed. This can result in an 11 pound gain in weight in one year.
Michelle has put together a number of tips to help New Zealanders cope with stress-induced weight gain.
- Determine the source. One version of stress is real. Finance, culture, relationships, work. Everything else is of your own choosing. These stressors are the thoughts we think and the judgments we make about ourselves, our bodies, our lives, and the people around us. For example, I am not good enough, I am not attractive enough, I am too big, I am too thin, I am not perfect, I have big thighs, I have to look different, I have to act differently.
- Practice mindful eating.
Focusing on what you eat – without distraction – can help reduce stress, promote weight loss and prevent weight gain. One study
found that overweight women who had stress-based awareness and nutrition training were better able to avoid eating emotionally, and had lower levels of stress, leading to less belly fat over time.
- Leave the diet. Lack of food is a stressor that can cause us to become dependent on body weight. When we block ourselves from food, for example diets, skip meals, skip food groups, or artificially suppress our appetite to try to lose weight, or when we are deficient in nutrients due to a poor diet, or lack essential fatty acids because of a phobia fat, the survival response can be activated. In such cases, deficiency prompts us to seek food because the body senses a lack of food, our appetite becomes high, and we struggle to control our urges or appetites and mistakenly believe that something is wrong with us.
- Make exercise a priority. Exercise is an essential component of stress reduction and weight management. This can help you deal with both problems at the same time, so it’s important to ward off stress-related weight gain. Whether you take a walk on your lunch break or hit the gym after work, incorporate regular exercise into your routine. Just make sure it’s a movement you enjoy. If you choose a movement based solely on trying to burn more calories, this can also trigger a stress response. So choose a movement that you feel comfortable with and stick to it!
- Incorporate stress relief strategies into your everyday life. Whether you enjoy yoga or find solace by reading a good book, try adding a simple stress reliever such as taking deep breaths, listening to music, or taking a walk in your daily routine. Doing so can reduce your cortisol levels, helping you manage your weight.
If you want to talk more about healing your relationship with food, overcoming food addiction, overeating or emotional eating, or anything else related to body nutrition, book a free 15 minute consultation with Michelle by visiting sagewellness.co.nz.
For more information on Sage Wellness, visit sagewellness.co.nz.