Think back to the last time you felt pressure from your work, family, or friends — did you have the urge to reach for a candy bar? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Stress is one of the major causes of eating poorly and eating excessively, so it’s no surprise that stress can lead to extra pounds around your waist. And it’s a red flag for risk factors associated with inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Finding ways to manage your stress is essential to healthy weight loss. Follow these 7 tips to recognize and manage your stress:
Eat Whole Grains
Whole grains, a Sonoma Diet Power Food, promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain messenger chemical. The magnesium abundant in whole grains and almonds (another Power Food) promotes muscle relaxation. Emphasizing B vitamins from whole grains, vegetables, and other foods on the Top Twelve Sonoma Power Foods list is also very important for repairing the negative effects of stress.
Choose Healthy Fats
Since the brain is approximately 60 percent fat, the type of fats in your diet can make a difference in brain function. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can act as an antidepressant because they boost serotonin production. Serotonin improves communication between brain cells and can help prevent or fight depression. Salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil are also packed with healthy monounsaturated fats. Limit your intake of saturated fat from animal fats and tropical oils, and eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in the partially hydrogenated oils used in processed foods.
Stop “Dieting” Diets that restrict carbs and dietary fats actually increase stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression — not to mention set you up for failure. The correct approach to healthy eating is to choose a diet you can live with, one composed of healthy fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a daily intake of whole grains. The only way to feel full and satisfied is to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs.
Get Some Sleep
Stressful situations can often lead to a lack of sleep — which can be especially dangerous for a dieter. Lack of sleep throws off the body’s chemistry and can increase cravings for carbohydrates, sweets, and fats. Plus, sleeping less than 5 hours a night not only produces inflammatory compounds linked to heart disease but also hinders your weight-loss efforts. Two hormones, cortisol and ghrelin, are the main culprits — sleep deprivation can cause an increase in ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating appetite, and a decrease in cortisol, the hormone that signals the brain that you are full. The result is an inability to control your appetite — a situation that can lead to a diet disaster. So get some rest!
Vary Your Exercise
Varying the type exercise you do — alternating from a high-intensity workout to one of a more meditative style, like yoga — can be restorative, relaxing, and essential for boosting your immune function and general outlook on life. It’s important to switch up an exercise routine to stave off boredom and keep challenging your body. Exercise also improves brain chemistry, increasing the level of feel-good endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. So the next time you feel overwhelmed by stress, take a break and get active. You’ll notice the difference!
Breathing slowly, deeply, and deliberately is a very simple and easy way to cope with everyday stress and exhausting schedules. Take a few moments to stop and breathe when stress rears its head. You’ll be able to relax your muscles and focus your mind, readying yourself for whatever obstacles lie ahead.
Recognize the Symptoms of Stress
There are two kinds of stress: acute (intense but short lived) and chronic, or ongoing. It’s the chronic type of stress that causes health problems. We commonly suppress feelings of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety to the point that we can’t even recognize the symptoms anymore. This is when we get into trouble with weight gain and more serious health conditions. Pay attention to stress symptoms — for example, an increase in blood pressure, insomnia, body aches, feelings of anxiety or depression, or a general feeling of being overwhelmed.