The body’s natural stress responses were not designed for our modern-day chronic stressors that expend mental and emotional energy as opposed to physical energy.
What to do? Here are some ways we can decrease chronic stress and perhaps prevent that resultant abdominal weight gain:
- Enjoy yourself! Things like exercise, yoga, meditation, hot baths, and intimacy can all help to quiet stress
- They stimulate the same pleasure centers in brain that are associated with cravings
- Relaxation techniques can also change the initial perception of stress
- Eat a balanced diet and don’t skip meals… and include high-fiber foods in your snacking
- Fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels which may eventually reduce cortisol levels
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables!
- Fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber as well as low in calories
- Try to consume a couple servings of fatty fish per week
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with an improved emotional state
- Good sources include salmon, sardines, tuna, trout
- Find ways to make your favorite “comfort” foods more healthful
- Can you add a vegetable? Substitute a plant oil? Swap for a whole grain? You may be surprised that you don’t have to sacrifice health for flavor!
- Drink lots of water
- Chronic stress may cause dehydration, which can cause fatigue
- Don’t rely upon caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol
- These substances lower blood sugar levels and can increase cortisol levels
- Caffeine may cause nervousness and insomnia in infrequent users
- Alcohol is a depressant and has empty calories
Don’t let stress get the better of you this season or at any other time of year! Try the tips above on your own — and don’t forget about the experts at EatWell, MoveWell, and BeWell. We are here for you!