How is stress affecting your weight?
As much as you would like to just snap your fingers and relax after a stressful day, your body sometimes has trouble letting go. Somehow, it hangs onto your most frustrating moments and replays them in your head.
Something I found quite eye-opening when I got into the functional medicine space was the damage that stress, and what I call 'swirls' have on gut health and our weight. Swirls = ruminating over something, be it an argument with someone or the current state of the world, etc.
But just to say it is not just gut health that suffers. Constantly being on guard and unable to unwind can increase weight around the middle because stress elevates cortisol (the stress hormone) which raises insulin, and in turns stores excess calories around the middle.
It also damages your thyroid gland hormones which affect your metabolic rate – the speed you burn your food, not to mention impacting your immune system and cardiovascular health.
Now to be clear - we all get stressed at some point and that’s ok. It’s life. And let’s face it - life will never not be busy. It’s this chronic ongoing stress and inability to let go and be present (in the moment) that is a problem for many.
Ok. So, what to do?
Take a breath
There's a simple, free, but very powerful strategy I teach to every one of my clients that someone special taught me once - and it changed my life. What is it? No, it's not going to a Yoga retreat in India (which would be nice) but it is a simple deep breathing technique. I challenge you to stop what you're doing right now and take a moment in time to breathe as follows:
1. Breath in for 4four seconds (one Mississippi, two Mississippi…) through your nose.
2. Hold your breath for four.
3. Breathe out for seven or eight through your mouth (long breath out).
4. Repeat twice more or as many times as you want to.
You feel good, don't you? This is because deep breathing instantly turns on our parasympathetic nervous system 'relax and digest' and gets us out of our sympathetic nervous system. This is our 'fight or flight' response we developed in the time of the sabre-tooth tiger and it’s still in use.
It's medically proven that a simple breathing technique (even for 20 seconds on a regular basis) will calm down your mind, give you the clarity and connection you seek and need.
Plus improve your body biomarkers; reduce cortisol, blood pressure and insulin among many other things.
Too often in this modern-day world, we are in a state of fight or flight - even when we don't realise it. And often we hold our breath or shallow breathe when in this state e.g. waiting at a red light, in a queue at the checkout, arguing, texting (yes most of us hold our breath while texting!) which puts extra pressure on your nervous system, hormones and your gut.
And this is not good news for your health.
So next time you're feeling, stressed while waiting at the checkout and thinking where you need to be next, I want you to catch yourself (this is what it means to be mindful) and realise the stress you're feeling. Accept it (don’t judge or suppress). Then mindfully shift your thoughts by using this simple 20-second breathing technique or any other relaxing technique you might have.
Have a great day.