Easy ways to beat stress-induced weight gain.
Being constantly on edge is bad news for weight watchers. (Photo: Konrad Bak / www.123rf.com)
Feeling stressed out by the truckloads of work because everyone else is clearing their leave? Or getting frazzled trying to find the perfect gift for a special someone? Moderate stress is fine, but a constantly stressful lifestyle and high stress levels will cause poor health and – yes – even weight gain. (Take our quiz to see if your stress level is healthy, or spiralling out of control.)
Why stress makes weight watchers fat
When you feel stressed or anxious, the adrenal glands above your kidneys shoot the hormone cortisol into the blood stream. This triggers the fight-or-flight response. Cortisol levels peak in the early morning and taper off at night. Having a stressful lifestyle, coupled with poor sleep habits, can cause cortisol levels to stay constantly elevated.
High levels of this hormone promotes the formation of visceral or belly fat (found around abdominal organs), which increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease. More bad news for weight watchers? “Too much cortisol in the body also stimulates the appetite and make you crave for food high in fat and sugar,” says Dr Kevin Tan, a consultant in diabetes, endocrinology and internal medicine at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
How weight watchers can manage stress
1. Impose a workout curfew
Exercising post-dusk means your cortisol level remains high into the night. Plus, you might be too alert to sleep after a workout. Make sure you have a break of at least four hours between exercise and bedtime.
Book yourself a relaxing massage – even a short 20-minute session helps! (Photo: puhhha / www.123rf.com)
2. Learn to relax
Deep breathing and massage can help release pent-up stress. Also, take time out for yourself every day. Even 20 minutes of relaxation or doing something you enjoy can be restorative and reduce your overall anxiety level, weight watchers!
3. Up your body’s nutrients
Beat stress by boosting your body’s resilience with vitamin C, which regulates cortisol. We don’t just mean popping pills. Load up on red-, green- and yellow/orange-coloured fruits and veggies too – they’re rich in Vitamin C. Read more on the four essential vitamins and minerals stress busters here.
4. Keep a journal
Rank your anxiety on a 1-to-10 scale. Note the events during which you felt anxious and the thoughts going through your mind before and during the anxiety. Keep track of things that make you more anxious or less anxious.
With input by Peh Xue Er for Raffles Healthnews.