Discover stress reduction techniques that support weight loss efforts
Stress is a factor of modern day life. There’s just no getting around that. But how does it relate to weight loss in particular?
First, food is a source of comfort and a momentary means of reducing stress for many people. For example, say you find out you have to give a big presentation in the morning that you’re not prepared for, so you go to the fridge to grab some double chocolate mocha ice cream.
Another reason is how your body chemically reacts to stress.
When you’re stressed, the body releases hormones that increase your breathing rate, divert blood from your digestive system to your muscles and brain, and trigger the release of glucose and the mobilization of carbohydrates and stored fat for quick energy.
This fight-or-flight response would help you defend against or outrun a bear in the woods—actions that would burn off all of that extra glucose coursing through your blood vessels. But today’s stressors rarely require a physical response—so the extra glucose remains in your blood stream where it triggers the release of insulin. Insulin then converts the glucose to stored fat.
Stress-Reduction Techniques to Support Weight Loss
Take some time to consider what stress-reducing steps might work for your personality and life circumstances. Here are some proven techniques that relieve stress and therefore improve your weight loss efforts.
Deep breathing helps relax your entire body, strengthens the muscles in your chest and abdomen, helps you burn calories more efficiently so that you lose weight, and leaves you feeling calm, yet energized. Whenever you feel tense, take a 3–5 minute break for deep breathing. Here’s how:
- Lie flat on your back with your knees pulled up. Keep your feet slightly apart.
- Inhale deeply through your nose. As you breathe in, allow your stomach to relax so the air flows into your abdomen. Your stomach should balloon out as you breathe in. Visualize your lungs filling up with energy so your chest swells out.
- Exhale deeply. As you breathe out, let your stomach and chest fall in. Imagine air coming out from your abdomen and then from your lungs.
While deep breathing can help relieve acute stress, proper breathing is also an important part of overall health. Learn the breathing techniques that can improve your overall health.
Exercise is crucial for weight loss, but it has the specific benefit of reducing stress, too. This is because exercise releases tension that has built up in your body and can release emotional tension as well. Also, by improving your health, well-being, and self-image, exercise bolsters your body’s ability to handle stress.
Laughter lowers levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Even the mere act of smiling has its benefits. Smiling sends a message to your brain to release endorphins—substances that relieve pain and give a sense of pleasure, peace, and well-being.
Countless people over the centuries have turned to prayer for a sense of reassurance and calm. And a growing body of evidence points to the beneficial health effects of prayer and spirituality. This doesn’t mean you have to be religious. You can find spirituality in a quiet walk in the woods or during the peaceful moments before you drift off to sleep.
As meditation has become better known in Western cultures, scientists have begun to quantify its physical benefits in hundreds of studies.
To start your meditation practice, find a quiet place and turn off your cell phone and other distractions. Don’t allow yourself to be disturbed for at least 20 minutes. Next, pick a focus word or brief phrase that’s meaningful to you. Some examples are “one,” “peace,” “shalom,” or “om.”
Then, sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax your body and mind, and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you are breathing out, say your word silently to yourself. Don’t worry about thoughts coming in and out of your mind. Gently release them and return to the repetition. To achieve relaxation, use this technique for at least 10 to 15 minutes a day.
Music produces more alpha rhythms in the brain. These particular rhythms are associated with relaxation. Music is also believed to produce more endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. In addition, music shows potential for bolstering the immune system by regulating natural body rhythms and lowering levels of corticosteroids, including cortisol.