This is a continuation of last week’s article about the impact of stress on weight. If you haven’t read that one discussing the multitude of ways that stress can cause weight gain, start there.
While it’s impossible to eradicate stress from our lives, we can take efforts to reduce the impact it has on us and on our weight. Learning to better cope with stress can improve multiple facets of our health, including weight management and metabolic markers.
Below are a few effective ways to deal with stress, both in the moment and during stressful times. They can help alleviate the inclination to stress eat and mitigate the fat storage process.
Breathwork, such as deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing, or simply observing the breath, can be a very effective tool for stress management. Focused breathing is one of best–and quickest–ways to shift the body out of the parasympathetic nervous system and settle back into the sympathetic. It acts as a pattern-interrupter for the thoughts and the nerves, telling the body that there’s no enemy attacking, and that it’s safe to relax. Think big belly breaths.
This quick and effective shift created by deep breathing can be enough to pause and reconsider before engaging in stress eating. Calming the parasympathetic nervous system also improves digestive function, including the secretion of HCL and enzymes, to prevent bloating and the feelings of indigestion that often accompany stress eating. Finally, reducing cortisol, particularly before eating, means the body is less likely to store any and all calories as belly fat, instead using them as they should be for immediate energy, glycogen stores, and cellular and muscle repair.
During stressful times, as mentioned last week, sleep is frequently shortchanged, yet during stressful times it becomes even more important. Deep, restful sleep actually reduces the impact of stress, improves resiliency, resets cortisol levels, and protects the adrenals. To acheive sufficient quality and quantity of sleep when under stress, consider the breathwork mentioned above, guided meditation (such as a total body relaxation), exercising early in the day, reading a few pages of a novel in a dimly lit area to calm the mind before bed, and other good sleep hygiene habits.
Sleep is so important to preventing weight gain because research has shown people who are sleep deprived tend to eat more to boost energy levels. Deep sleep resets our willpower and decision-making ability, which are critical to making smart food choices and sensing how much is enough. Furthermore, when we get quality rest, the body can deal with inflammation. Excess inflammation leads to water retention, a slowing of the metabolism and wastes processing, and is linked to metabolic syndrome.
Adaptogens are a group of herbs that help the body better resist and cope with the effects of stress. They are one of the most effective natural, herbal remedies for dealing with stress. They can be drunk as a stress relief tea, taken as a capsule, or if a powder, mixed into smoothies. Adaptogens are advantageous because they don’t require concentration, behavior change, time investment, or significant effort, all of which can be hard to come by when stressed. If you ask me, a cup of tea for stress is one of the easiest ways to slow down, focus, and find a brief moment of respite and peace.
When it comes to managing weight and stress, adaptogens are an important ally: they help balance and reset cortisol levels (for less belly fat storage), enhance energy, concentration, and stamina, improve the restfulness of sleep, and support good digestion. Since they can also reduce the perception of stress, they can help mitigate stress-induced eating. Perhaps most pronounced with adaptogens is how they work on the body to combat the physiological effects of stress, including those associated with weight gain, fat accumulations, and loss of muscle tone. A cup tea made from eleuthero, licorice root, schisandra berry, or tulsi is not just tea for stress, it’s also a tea to lose weight for those who are stressed. (And aren’t we all?)
Whenever you’re stressed for extended periods of time, make sure you get quality sleep, remember that your breath is always there to serve you, and keep these adaptogens handy. A stress relief tea full of adaptogens may just become your favorite go-to to maintain muscle tone, prevent weight gain, and to keep your figure lean and fit.