If achieving a healthy lifestyle is your goal, then managing stress should be a top priority.
Stress is often the unseen factor hampering the weight loss efforts of many. Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be easily changed and often goes unaddressed when implementing a positive lifestyle change.
How Does Stress Affect Health?
There are several ways stress can impact your well-being. From a biological standpoint, the hormone cortisol plays an integral role in your body’s reaction to stressful situations. One of its functions is to help make energy readily available, if needed, to escape or fight off an attack. This acute physiological response is also referred to as the fight-or-flight response.
This same function occurs when handling more modern sources of stress, such as a tough day at the office or a long day with the kids. While this mechanism helps keep you “safe,” long-term stress can start to have negative impacts on your health. Studies have linked higher levels of cortisol in individuals under stress to numerous negative outcomes that affect your brain, nervous system, sleep patterns, cardiovascular health, and weight (1).
Does Stress Really Affect Your Waistline?
The short answer is yes. Many can relate to finding their progress stalled during a weight loss journey. You might feel like you’re doing everything right and following your plan to a T, yet you still aren’t seeing results. If that is the case, there may be unseen factors at play hampering your efforts. Uncontrolled stress and poor sleep are common culprits.
In the short term, acute stress is often associated with unwanted weight loss, while continuous stress or ongoing problems lasting for months to years (chronic stress) is associated with less nutritious food choices, resulting in weight gain (2, 3).
One study investigating stress’s effect on weight found that increased cortisol was associated with a reduction in dietary restraint and increased calorie intake, leading to weight gain among women (4). The researchers also noted that the increased calories specifically came from foods high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats (4). Classic “comfort foods” can make a substantial contribution to stress-related weight gain.
Researchers are pinpointing these changes in normal dietary patterns during periods of prolonged stress as a driving factor in the association between chronic stress and obesity. They have also observed that going through long-term stress induces distinct behavioral changes such as decreasing physical activity, increasing sedentary behavior, and decreasing sleep duration (2). A combination of any of these changes (physiological or behavioral) can take a toll on both your health and your weight.
Four Ways to Better Navigate Stress
Here are five things you can do to better navigate stressful seasons in your life:
1. Acknowledge the stress you are under and re-evaluate your goals.
Shifting your focus to self-care through proper nutrition, physical activity, and stress management can help you feel your best during trying times. This mindset shift can eliminate the pressure of seeing dramatic changes on the scale, making your emotional and mental health a much-needed priority.
2. Prioritize activity you enjoy.
Whether your workout is a challenging class, “you time,” or a social opportunity to catch up with friends, make it a staple in your daily routine. Physical activity of any kind has been shown to help alleviate stress and improve mood (5). Getting active each day is also a cornerstone of health and supports your weight loss goals. When you are starting to feel busy or overwhelmed, don’t let your workout routine be the first to go.
3. Stick with your Shake Days.
Studies have shown that those who are struggling with chronic stress are more prone to cravings (2). Following your Shake Day schedule can help you feel satisfied throughout the day and much less likely to overindulge in comfort foods. Shake Days are designed to fuel your body with dense nutrition, so you can look and feel your best. With the bonus of convenience, IsaLean® Shakes and Bars can take the stress out of mealtime.
4. Drink adaptogens daily.
Whether it is a tough workout, a rough day, or a stressful time in your life, adaptogens have been shown to help your body adjust (6, 7). Making Ionix® Supreme or Adaptogen Elixir part of your daily routine can give you consistent adaptogen support.
Because stress is often unavoidable, an important step in protecting your health is developing methods to better navigate these stressful times and prevent negative long-term effects. Isagenix products can help you achieve this goal.
Roberts C, Troop N, Connan F, Treasure J, Campbell IC. The effects of stress on body weight: biological and psychological predictors of change in BMI. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Dec;15(12):3045-55. doi: 10.1038/oby.2007.363.
Chao A, Grilo CM, White MA, Sinha R. Food cravings mediate the relationship between chronic stress and body mass index. J Health Psychol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Oct 14. Published in final edited form as: J Health Psychol. 2015 Jun; 20(6): 721–729. doi: [10.1177/1359105315573448]
Masih T, Dimmock JA, Epel ES, Guelfi KJ. Stress-induced eating and the relaxation response as a potential antidote: A review and hypothesis. Appetite. 2017 Nov 1;118:136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.08.005. Epub 2017 Aug 5.
Roberts CJ, Campbell IC, Troop N. Increases in weight during chronic stress are partially associated with a switch in food choice towards increased carbohydrate and saturated fat intake. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2014 Jan;22(1):77-82. doi: 10.1002/erv.2264. Epub 2013 Oct 4.
Pedersen BK and Saltin B. Exercise as medicine – evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Nov; 25(53): 1-72.
Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol 2009;4:198-219.
Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of adaptogens on the central nervous system and the molecular mechanisms associated with their stress-protective activity. Pharmaceuticals 2010; 3: 188-224.