Is there a link between relaxation and weight loss?
Due to the fast pace of life that many of us lead, one day in August has been set aside to celebrate International Relaxation Day, which aims to remind us that one of the most important elements of a healthy life is to live in a calm and relaxed state of mind. This means learning to manage our emotions and achieving the necessary relaxation at the right moments. For that reason, it is very necessary to review our daily habits and make those alterations that can alleviate the physical and mental impact that we may suffer, including weight gain.
In general, we live with many responsibilities that are not always priorities. We add pressures to our daily lives, and something as simple as being constantly alert to the sounds and messages on our mobile phones can create anxiety and stress.
The response to human stress involves the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. Each of these systems reacts by secreting hormones or by sending signals to different parts of our body. In fact, this is not the end of the matter, because when we feel so much stress, a very primitive response called "fight or flight" can be activated, where heart rate, perspiration, blood pressure, mental activity increase and coronary arteries, bronchial tubes, and blood vessels in the muscles of the limbs dilate, while body functions not essential for immediate survival, such as digestion and reproductive function, are suppressed.
What is the relationship between stress, cortisol, and weight gain?
The effects of stress on appetite and food preferences during periods of stress vary between individuals. However, chronic stress is a known risk factor for obesity, and studies suggest that the elevated insulin levels commonly seen in overweight or obese people may be linked. During these periods our bodies tend to secrete cortisol, a naturally occurring steroid hormone that plays a key role in the body's response to stress. This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands and when its levels rise in our bodies, insulin levels also increase, causing blood sugar to drop, triggering a terrible craving for foods rich in sugars and fats, which act on opioid receptors in the brain to inhibit stress responses. Therefore, it is important to have some time in which we can relax and disconnect, so that the body can readjust all its functions.
Relaxation is a great tool that we should introduce into our daily lives, as it helps to lower stress levels and, consequently, the excess cortisol that is generated. Often all that is required is a good night's rest.
In short, if we want to lose weight, it is necessary to lead an active life, but we must also respect rest and learn to relax. Making small changes in our reactions and habits can help us to achieve the quality of life we desire.
Stop the stress cycle and its potential weight gain
The simple act of changing, introducing or eliminating some habits in our daily lives can help to stop the cycle of stress and minimise its negative impact. Some of these points are the following:
Incorporate stress-relieving strategies into your daily life
- Engage in regular physical activity or exercise
- Meditation, yoga, or an activity that helps you to switch off
- Learn problem-solving techniques
- Get enough sleep daily
- If possible, feel free to close your eyes and relax for 15 minutes during the day if you feel the need to do so.
Practice mindful eating
- Don't skip meals
- Introduce a healthy diet
- Eliminate or minimise foods that contain refined flours, sugar, or fats.
- Identify foods that comfort you during times of stress and replace them with a healthier version
- Drink water between meals and make sure you drink fluids that do not contain sugars/calories.
During stressful episodes, use a diary
- Write down the food and drinks you have consumed during that day.
- Enter your emotions of the day and in case you have an emotional episode, note what happened before or after it.
Remember that you can always use different tools to achieve balance in your diet and relaxation.
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