As we age, it can feel harder to maintain the same weight, and, often our clothes don’t fit quite the same as they used to, even as we maintain the same eating patterns. What we often don’t consider is that our internal stress levels have a significant impact on our weight, and can be sabotaging our weight loss/weight maintenance efforts.
Let’s explore some ways that stress is impacting our metabolism.
Stress Induces a Cortisol Response
When we are stressed, our adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol to help us deal with our stress. Unfortunately, when we experience stress on a continued, prolonged basis, this elevated cortisol can start to cause us problems. Cortisol promotes the release of insulin, which tells our bodies to store sugar. This, in turn, causes blood sugar to drop and cravings to rise. This mechanism has been found to increase the incidence of abdominal fat distribution in women.
Stress Impairs Digestion
Our gut and brain are closely connected to the vagus nerve, so what happens in one invariably impacts the other. When we experience long-term stress, this impacts digestion and can manifest as symptoms such as bloating and IBS. These digestive symptoms can lead to inadequate nutrient absorption causing your body to crave more food to get what you are missing.
Stress Disrupts Sleep
Many of us have experienced a restless sleep when we are stressed. This can manifest as periods of mid-sleep wakefulness, or as a feeling of fatigue upon awakening. Lack of sleep has a significant impact on our weight as chronic sleep deprivation decreases glucose tolerance, elevates cortisol (see above), and decreases the satiety hormone leptin while stimulating hunger and appetite.
Our bodies are built to handle short-term, momentary stress well, however, we are not built for chronic, unrelenting stress. Unfortunately, the daily stresses of modern life are wreaking havoc on our bodies. Try some of the suggestions below to reduce your stress load, which can also help you to maintain a healthy weight.
- Meditation – mindfulness meditation has become more popular in recent years and has shown to help stress levels and quality of sleep. There are many apps with guided meditations available for beginners.
- Deep breathing – Deep breathing is relaxing, easy to do anywhere with a minimum of time and effort required. Benefits include reduced stress and cortisol levels.
- Journaling – Keeping a bedside journal and writing daily about worries can help release them. Alternatively, create a gratitude journal to bring the focus on the good in your life.
- Movement – Restorative yoga, stretching or walking outside in fresh air are all great ways to use movement to release stress.
Did you ever think that meditation might be your answer to weight loss?? It is!