As the summer in the UK is looking to be a long and hot one, many of us are turning our attention towards how we can lose weight and get fit in time for the beach holiday. But there’s one pretty large obstacle that we should all be aware of…stress.
We’ve all experienced it…that surge of butterflies in the stomach, the quickening heart rate, the dry mouth, the sweats and heightened senses…yes that familiar feeling when stress takes hold. Sometimes we can manage stress, in fact a degree of stress can keep us going and at other times it can get a little too much for us to cope with. And, while we think we can manage our surges of stress there are other crucial factors at play that we should all be aware of….stress can lead to increased body fat.
There are some key reasons that stress leads to weight gain, but don’t worry, here at Calmer Sea we’ve got strategies that will help you to manage them and lose weight:
The fight or flight chemical surge
To fully explore why our bodies react as they do we need to travel back in time – a few million years to be precise, back to when we hunted and foraged for our food. When we were threatened in any way then there were two options; to fight our way out of danger or to run. In order to do this, our bodies release a cascade of chemicals including adrenaline, CRH and cortisol in order to make the brain and body alert. Adrenaline is the first chemical hit that is released as your blood flows to your larger muscles to make us alert and ready for action. When this begins to wear off, CRH – the central driver of the stress hormone system, which is stimulated by nervous activity within the brain, increases the level of cortisol in the body. The stress hormone Cortisol, which is released from our adrenal glands, just above our kidneys, sends signals to your brain to replenish food supplies and so your appetite spikes. So in summary, that sick, panicky and jittery feeling that you feel in the pit of your stomach when you get stressed comes from cortisol and adrenaline preparing us for action.
Why modern stress changes everything
Of course there are times when our fight or flight is still called upon, however, many modern stresses require mental resources far more than physical ones. Our busy lifestyles with all the deadlines, anxieties relating to work, love, finances, presentations, interviews…. you name it…aren’t the type of stresses that you can physically run away from, even though your body is still preparing you for exactly that by flooding your body with Cortisol and adrenaline.
Why stress makes you fat
So there you are stressing over a job interview, your body pumped with fat-storing adrenaline and cortisol, waiting for you to take physical action. You’ve got a sugar spike in your bloodstream that’s just circulating…eventually settling as fat on your waist and making you gain, let alone lose weight.
To compound the issue, cortisol sends signals to the brain to replenish your food supply. So you crave more sugar and reach for comfort foods such as chocolate and biscuits. This has been hard-wired into you neuroendocrine system and so unfortunately this will always be the case.
Why does stress cause belly fat in particular?
Research by Yale university in America showed that fat cells around the stomach area have the most cortisol receptors, attracting cortisol to a layer of fat just below your abdominal muscles that is hard to get rid of. Exercise alone will not eliminate this layer of fat, the only thing you can do is take steps to reduce the stress (see below for the Calmer Sea stress busters). Once present, the stomach fat releases chemicals triggering inflammation, which increases the likelihood that we will develop heart disease or diabetes. The domino effect doesn’t stop there either because unfortunately, excess cortisol also slows down your metabolism, because your body wants to maintain an adequate supply of glucose for all that hard mental and physical work dealing with the threat.
…and now for the sleepy part
Again, we’ve all gone to bed and found it hard to drift off because we’re worrying about something, in fact a poll of 1,000 Brits by Norton Finance found that 84 per cent of people in the UK admitted frequently lying awake worrying about money. But stress disrupts our sleep and our blood sugar levels. This leads to increased hunger and comfort eating. Lack of sleep disrupts the functioning of ghrelin and leptin—chemicals that control appetite. A study by King’s College, London found that sleep-deprived people consume, on average, an extra 385kcal per day.
Take control of your stress with Calmer Sea and it will help you lose weight
The Calmer Sea 30 step plan is designed to beat anxiety and stress. It’s a blend of over 18 types of clinically proven therapies such as CBT, hypnotherapy, NLP, self-compassion, visioning, EFT, havening, mindfulness…. the list goes….that create over 200 individual exercises that we can select from to help you beat stress, lose weight and take control of your life.
Below are a few of the exercises that we know can help you beat stress and lose weight:
Aerobic exercise can decrease cortisol and trigger the release of chemicals that relieve pain and improve mood. It can also help speed your metabolism helping you achieve your goal faster.
Try to complete 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each day for a week. This could be a brisk walk, a bike ride, swimming, a comfortable jog or even doing strenuous housework. The increased physical activity is a great foundation block for you to lose weight and get that dopamine flowing (the chemical in your brain that affects your emotions, movements and your sensations of pleasure and pain).
When you eat your food, slow down, turn off all distractions and focus entirely on the food. Try to think of the processes that the food has gone through, how many people have been involved and the energy that’s been absorbed into it.
Turn off any TV’s or radios and try to focus only on sensations, feelings, smells and textures; no rushing, eat every mouthful slowly and deliberately reflecting on the textures, the look, the smell, the temperature, how the cutlery works with you, the feeling of chewing the food, then swallowing it.
Remember that if your mind wanders to issues that may distract you from fully focussing on your meal, notice it and regain the focus.
Focus on sleep
Take control of your sleeping patterns and try to follow these tips to establish healthy sleep habits:
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule; try to get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during holidays
- Try and get at least 7 hours of sleep.
- If you don’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something non-strenuous and not particularly mentally taxing.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine – have a bath, a warm drink, read for a little….
- Use your bed only for sleep and intimacy – don’t do your work in there.
- Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing and try to de-clutter if you can.
- Keep the room at a comfortable temperature.
- Limit your exposure to bright light in the evenings so draw the curtains in summertime.
- Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime; if you are hungry at night then only eat a light, healthy snack.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
- Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening and avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
- Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.
Try Calmer Sea for FREE.
Download the Calmer Sea app and take control of stress and anxiety so you can begin to make positive changes to your life.
The App is available late June on Google play and Apple app store