There are many reasons why someone may be carrying more weight than they want to. And it’s rarely as simple as calories-in versus calories-out. Stress and weight loss are very much linked.
Our relationship with food is complicated. We first associate food with comfort when we are born and nurse at our mothers’ breast. Most of us have experienced an adult offering us a biscuit or a sweet to cheer us up. So that link between negative feelings and using food to soothe is reinforced as we grow. the more it happens, the more it becomes a habit.
It isn’t always conscious
It isn’t a decision we consciously make. Nor is it one we are necessarily aware of. So, if you find yourself reaching for food outside of mealtimes, or feeling that a less healthy food choice feels like the only thing which will hit the mark, ask yourself what you are feeling in this moment. Dig deep. Too many people answer immediately with “nothing – I just need something to eat” when, with a bit of gentle curiosity, they can find out that what’s really going on is some kind of stress. After all, if it was simply that you were hungry, a chicken salad would do the job. But usually what we crave is high in fat and sugar.
How stress and weight loss are linked
Food becomes a distraction from stress. And in the moment of distraction we are able to focus on something other than the stressor. It feels helpful at the time but it just avoids the cause of this cycle of ‘feel bad – eat’.
The stress hormone and weight loss
When you experience stress, cortisol is released and can cause you to feel hungry for particular types of foods. You’ve guessed it. It is the fatty, sugary types of food you reach for. And the more stressed you are the more cortisol you produce. And the more cortisol you produce the more unhealthy food you crave. Below I will share 7 tips to help you break the cycle.
Fat* and sugar is stored as fat
Your body stores excess calories as fat. And any calories that have no nutritional value will be stored as fat anyway because there is nothing it can do for you except wait to be burned off as energy. It can’t support heart-health, it can’t build strong bones, it can’t help your brain function at it’s best, it can’t support your immune system or your hormones. So it is stored, waiting to be used as energy. Assuming that you are consuming more calories than your body burns off, your body will simply store the excess as fat, ready to be used later. Except there is no later because of this cycle you are in. So your body just stores fat on top of fat. Your waistline expands, your self-esteem shrinks and your eating gets more out of control.
What can you do about stress and weight loss? Here is a 7-point plan to help you:
- Keep a food diary so you can see the link between what you eat and your emotions and so you can understand why you are craving those high-fat, sugary foods – this is the first step to conquering this cycle.
- Have a meal plan for each day which helps you balance your blood sugar so that the cravings are reduced. This also helps to stop those impulse buys.
- Manage your stressors well so you are being more responsive rather than reactive. Self-hypnosis is great for this, or you may prefer my Stress-Free MP3.
- Eat lots of fibre-rich foods which also help to balance blood sugar and so manage cravings. A list is given in the meal planner.
- Eat protein with each meal and healthy fats too. This helps you to stay full for longer. A list can be found in the meal planner.
- Eat slowly: this enables you to extract all the nutrients from your food so you get the best benefit from it. It also means that your ‘full signal’ can work effectively.
- Drink plenty of water. Water helps you with stress, helps manage hunger and helps your body process nutrients more effectively.
Following these principles will help you get back on track with your stress and weight loss. However, if you would like more support, and work 1:1 so that you are supported every step of the way, do get in touch. It is so much easier when you are working with a supportive expert in this complex area.
*Not all fats are unhealthy. For more information, get my meal planner which gives you a lot of information about foods.