In fact, if you have chronic stress in your life, you may not be able to lose weight and keep it off until you address it.
We all have some level of stress in our lives. A little bit of stress can be a good thing when it motivates us to accomplish goals. But what happens when you feel stressed or have anxiety all the time? Your body will attempt to cope by creating cravings for fat and salty foods. Stress eating is a real problem for many people.
The first step is to recognize if this is a problem for you. Do you reach for comfort foods when you’re anxious or stressed? Do you feel extremely hungry when you’re stressed? Many people gain weight around their middle from stress. Abdominal fat can increase your risk for all sorts of health problems.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage your stress. The trick is to find what works best for you. Everyone is different. Many health professionals recommend finding an activity that helps you trigger the “relaxation response.”
When you’re able to produce the relaxation response, many changes begin in your body. For example, your heart rate slows down, your blood pressure drops, and blood flow to the brain increases. You may notice that your muscles relax. Each breath will become slower and deeper.
Here are six ways to induce the relaxation response. Always ask your doctor first if any type of exercise or practice is appropriate for you.
Deep breathing– Breathing slowly from the abdomen, deep breaths allow you to take in more oxygen.
Progressive muscle relaxation– In this practice, you tense and relax different muscle groups in your body. It helps you recognize when your body is starting to tense up from stress.
Mindfulness meditation– By focusing on the present moment, this type of meditation keeps you from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Many people focus on breathing in and out slowly to keep their mind in the present moment. When the mind wanders, go back to focusing on your breath.
Exercise– Running, dancing, Zumba®, lifting weights, walking and cycling are all different ways you can exercise and lower your stress levels.
Yoga – Yoga is a mind and body practice. The various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation techniques.
Tai Chi– Tai chi is a centuries-old, mind and body practice. During a tai chi class, you go through specific postures and gentle movements with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation. The movements can be adapted or practiced while walking, standing, or sitting.