Natural Stress Relievers and Weight Management
Long gone is the old stereotype of the jolly fat person. Research by the Dieticians Association of Australia found, "Compared with individuals of the same age who were normal weight or overweight, participants aged 45-54 who were obese were more likely to report that emotional problems had affected their work, social or regular activities in the past month. In addition, the participants aged between 45 and 54 years who were obese were less likely to have felt calm and peaceful in the previous month." While the exact connection or causation is not fully known, it appears there is a vicious circle of obesity contributing to stress, and stress contributing to obesity. Admittedly, obesity is an extreme state, but it's worth exploring managing stress as a way to boost the process of shedding extra pounds.
A previous article explained the internal state called "stress" and its relationship to weight gain. Anyone undergoing prolonged stress, even at a low level, is subject to elevated levels of cortisol. When this steroid hormone is present, it poses a challenge to weight management.
Fortunately, there are many recognized natural and effective ways to calm the stress response and reduce the presence of cortisol. As the saying goes, "You can't control what happens in your life, but you can control your response to it." Here are tips for managing stress, an important component of weight loss:
What you eat can have a huge influence
What you eat can have a huge influence on the stress state in your body. Consider practicing better nutrition than ever! If you're already paying attention to good eating habits, you can reinforce them by using the principle: if nature didn't make it, then don't eat it. Avoid processed, fried, and dyed foods, since these create extra stress and energy demands as the body struggles to break them down and excrete the waste. Aim for quality protein and complex carbs in moderation. Stay away from fad diets and severe calorie reduction, which can create more harm than good. Never get in the practice of "yoyo dieting" and be patient with very gradual weight loss.
Get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep
Get at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that partial sleep deprivation changed the blood levels of the hormone that regulates hunger. People with poor sleep habits may experience an increase in appetite and a craving for high calorie, high-carbohydrate foods. Not only does this increase the risk for obesity (and all the other disease states that accompany it), but these are also the kinds of foods that push the body back into stress mode.
Supplements that lower the stress response
Supplements that lower the stress response are worth considering. Here is a partial list of natural nutrients that can combat fatigue, support the adrenal glands and immune system, and contribute to an overall sense of well-being: antioxidants (especially vitamins C, B5 and B6), American ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and schisandra. IMPORTANT: Do not self-diagnose or self-dose. Consult with a knowledgeable practitioner of internal medicine or certified naturopath, osteopath or homeopath who supports complimentary medicine to discuss your own situation and determine a good supplement plan for you.
If you don't already have a regular exercise practice
If you don't already have a regular exercise practice, find one that you enjoy and can afford. Not everyone can pay for the luxury of a personal trainer, but there are many fitness programs and centers with a low cost. Check your local park district or YMCA/YWCA. If finances are particularly tight, discuss options with the administration. Make sure you work out three times per week, and that you incorporate three essential elements: aerobic exercise (for heart health, reduced fatigue and increased stamina), muscle toning (helps burn calories even while you sleep, and improves your image both in and out of clothes), and stretching (muscle relaxation diminishes stress and enhances future workout performance).
Explore sources of meaning
Explore sources of meaning, because research shows that people who have a sense of purpose or spirituality experience significantly less stress in the uncontrollable events of life. Natural stress management will enhance and sustain healthy weight loss choices. Engage your body and mind in a program to keep cortisol to normal resting levels. Let nature be your best friend in losing unwanted pounds and raising how you feel about yourself and your life.