By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
Let’s face it: we all get stressed. Unfortunately, it is just a part of life, and unless we know how to handle it, stress can affect our productivity, happiness, and even our waistline.
When we are stressed, we tend to eat whatever is in front of our faces (or worse: we may go looking for indulgences), lose motivation to exercise and end up sacrificing sleep (as well as our sanity)! All of these can inhibit weight loss.
Recent studies conducted by the National Institute of Health found that women with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol ate more, slept less and gained more weight than the women with lower levels. Don’t let these stats get you stressed though, there are many simple things you can do to de-stress and keep that weight off for good.
Eat Right, Stress Less
The fact that “stressed” is “desserts” spelled backwards does not justify downing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s at the end of a stressful day. Countless studies show that what we eat greatly influences the impact stress has on our body. Here are some foods to help fight stress:
- Omega-3s in fish, walnuts, flax and chia have been shown to help fight depression linked to stress.
- Foods high in potassium like bananas and potatoes help control blood pressure, which will help keep cortisol (stress hormone) levels low.
- Whole grains, black beans and nuts are all high in magnesium, which sends a signal to our muscles to relax.
And don’t forget about snacking. Eating breakfast and small meals throughout the day can keep your mood steady. Foods can also help protect against damage caused by stress, keeping us glowing from the inside out. Colorful fruits and veggies like carrots, spinach, apples and berries are rich in phytonutrients that help protect our cells from the damage that stress can cause. Filling up on the right foods will not only help fight stress, but keep you on the right track for weight loss, as well—win, win!
Hit the Mattress
We know it’s not exactly easy to fall asleep, or even stay asleep when we are stressed, but it is one of the most important factors in weight loss. A recent study conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that people trying to lose at least 10 pounds were more likely to reach that goal if they had at least 6 hours of sleep each night and had lower stress levels.
So sleep more to lose weight? While it may sound too good to be true, it is for real. A lack of sleep can set off a cascade of hormonal imbalances, which can ultimately lead to an increased appetite. The greater the appetite, the more we will eat, and the more likely we are to gain weight. A lack of sleep can also leave us feeling groggy and more likely to make poor decisions at mealtimes. But, that doesn’t mean you should ditch the daily workouts and healthy diet in favor of more sleep. Rather, make a good night’s sleep part of your day – everyday! And not just for your waistline, but for your sanity. Proper sleep will make you feel more alert and focused so that even the most stressful days are a whole lot easier to endure.
Get Up and Move
Like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, and spaghetti and meatballs, exercise and stress relief go hand in hand. Not only does a daily workout burn calories and increase overall health and well-being, but it also boosts endorphins, which can relieve stress and distract us from our worries. Although commonly referred to as a “runner’s high” these feel-good endorphins can also be experienced during an outdoor hike or a good kickboxing session.
When released, they can turn even the worst day into a feel-good day. Regular exercise can also improve mood, self confidence, combat depression and even help us sleep better at night, which can aid in weight loss as well. A double reason to get moving! Daily exercise can also help prevent diseases like obesity and heart disease, ultimately giving us less to stress about.
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years – and there’s a reason why! It has been proven to reduce stress, help with sleep problems and combat depression. This is good for the mind and the body. And the best part is, its absolutely free. All you need is your mind and a quiet place.
This small amount of peace in your day can help you relax and even help you deal with more stressful situations in the future. But remember, don’t get caught up in meditating the “right way.” This can only cause more stress, so do what is best for you. This might be a quiet stroll through the park or a hot bubble bath. Just keep your mind full of positive thoughts, and you will soon become your very own meditation master.
Nationally recognized nutrition expert and published author Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City. For years, Keri has been a leader in advancing a “whole person” approach to health and wellness. She has dedicated her career to creating services and promoting education through her “Nutritious Life” brand.
She has authored two books; the most recent is The O2 Diet. The Cutting Edge, Antioxidant-Based Program That Will Make You Healthy, Thin and Beautiful. (Rodale, December 2009.) This book translates complex scientific research on antioxidants and the ORAC scale into useful and useable tools that everyone can benefit from. It empowers people to live a more Nutritious Life by combining a nutrient dense, high antioxidant diet with the other components of the Nutritious Life Cycle. The O2 Diet follows the Snack Factor Diet, (Crown, 2007.)
Keri is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women’s Health Magazine, and was the first registered dietitian to create a real food based snack bar, KeriBar. Additionally, Keri is the Nutrition and Health contributor for NBC’s LX New York, and is regularly featured on national television programs including The View, Dr. Oz, The Doctor’s, The Wendy Williams Show, NBC The Today Show, ABC Good Morning America, MSNBC and The Fox News Channel. Keri has a blog on AOL Health/That’s Fit, and writes a monthly newsletter for Ediets.com.
Keri resides in New York City with her husband Brett and their children, Rex and Maizy.