Did you know that besides making your palms sweaty and increasing your heart rate, stress piles on those puffy waistline kilos? Yep, stress-related weight gain exists, which is why a de-stress plan is important. “Prolonged stress causes cortisol (the stress hormone) to be secreted, stimulating insulin release, which is linked to the body’s attempt to stabilise blood sugar,” says naturopath Sarah Bowles-Flannery.
“Then once this happnes, your appetite increases, and cravings for foods high in fat and carbs rocket. While you’ll love that energy boost at first, it drops like a stone afterwards, as the insulin grabs the glucose out of the blood and into the fastest storage area – fat! And, yes, mostly around the middle.”
This means that stress could very well sabotage any weight loss efforts you’re trying to achieve. It’s important to keep your cortisol levels in check while you’re trying to lose weight and stay healthy with a proper de-stress plan you can practice often.
Your de-stress plan:
This means using your diaphragm and abdominal muscles, not just those in your upper chest. When you feel your heart racing, sit down, put one hand on your upper chest, the other below your navel. Inhale slowly, to a count of seven, so you feel your stomach rising under your hand, then exhale, feeling your stomach fall, to a slow count of 10. If you’re doing it right, your upper hand should stay still. Pause briefly, then repeat.
Create a sanctuary
“This means making both a space and a time for yourself,” says Sarah. It doesn’t have to be a whole room you can retreat to – it can be as simple as putting some candles around your bath, or setting up a corner of your bedroom where you can sit on a cushion and meditate. Think of a time of day that will work for you – perhaps first thing in the morning, before the rest of the family is up, or later in the evening. Commit to a few minutes a day to sit quietly, even if you can’t manage more. Don’t make an effort to meditate, just observe your thoughts.
Stretch before you go to bed
Start by standing up, then circle your head slowly five times, then stretch out both arms as far as they’ll go. Then sit down, with your legs straight, but slightly apart, and bend forwards to touch your toes. Pull your toes up with your hand on each side to stretch your calves. Just five minutes of this “me time” can work wonders.
Make time for some physical activity
The best kind is exercise that that makes you slightly out of breath, ideally for half an hour every day (even when you’re extra busy). Exercise helps us use up the hormones produced under stress, relaxes muscles and can make you feel physically tired, which may help you sleep. No spare time? Use the stairs, not the lift or the escalator, whenever possible when you’re shopping, or at work.
Drink less alcohol
Alcohol may seem like a quick relaxation fix, but just a little too much can loosen inhibitions, which means you’re more likely to eat and drink even more. It may help you nod off, but you’re also more likely to wake a couple of hours later, then find it hard to get back to sleep. And a lack of sleep also contributes to weight gain. One glass of wine every now and then is fine, but don’t keep refilling.
Some therapists use stress-relieving supplements to temper cortisol and, in turn, help weight control. It could be a move you might like to try. Pharmacist Shabir Daya picks a combo of three supplements that could help with stress-related weight gain:
This herbal blend contains contains Relora and Theanine for anti-anxiety and calming effects, plus it helps to reducie stress-related eating. Magnolia bark extract also helps eliminate excess cortisol.
A weight management tea
This tea contains a combination of 7 herbs which work together to enhance calorie burning throughout the day. The tea also helps to reduce cravings and control your appetite. For best results, drink around three cups per day.
A de-stress herbal remedy
Also known as Indian Ginseng, this natural herbal remedy is also a potent adaptogen, which is essential for balancing your mood, digestion and appetite. It also helps to beat the effects of stress, prevent fatigue and keep your thyroid in check.
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.