Being constantly stressed is becoming the norm for many of us. For some even, it’s a badge of honour. But spending increasing amounts of time in this ‘fight or flight’ mode, where the stress hormone cortisol courses through our veins, can leave us feeling exhausted, miserable and bloated.
Mindfulness went mainstream last decade. If you’ve dipped your toe into meditation apps but continued with your frenetic lifestyle, then you’re not alone. However, it might be time to rethink, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. When cortisol levels are high, we tend to crave sugary, fatty and processed foods because they are precisely what our bodies want in a stressful situation- quick-releasing energy to cope with the stressor.
Furthermore, studies show that cortisol slows down our metabolism and increases our appetite. These factors often make weight gain inevitable, especially visceral fat (fat which accumulates around the abdomen and the internal organs). Visceral fat is not only harder to lose than subcutaneous fat, it’s also is a key indicator of developing insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The good news is that by approaching weight loss holistically and taking practical steps to reduce your stress levels, you can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Try these simple tips:
- Exercise has been shown to help lower cortisol levels. ‘Runner’s high’ is due to the flood of endorphins released during exercise. Any form of moderate exercise will cause your body to release these ‘happy hormones’. We recommend doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise across the week.
- Meditation, yoga and controlled deep breathing are also very effective in lowering cortisol levels. If you don’t fancy a class, shut yourself away at home or work for twenty minutes a day with a app such as Headspace or Calm.
- Sleep glorious sleep. It’s essential that we have time to rest and repair. Start to view sleep as an important contributing factor to your health and wellbeing, along with diet and exercise. Stay off gadgets one hour before bedtime and limit alcohol consumption late at night.
Ensuring you have a convenient, well balanced diet is very important for stress management. Making healthier choices will help to regulate hormone levels and may help to aid in weight loss.