Is stress blocking your weight loss?

How many times have you heard people say that they don't understand why they're not loosing weight? They're following a strict diet and they're exercising religiously yet the pounds aren't shifting? 

Quite often in these situations one of the the most overlooked barriers to weight loss is stress. Here are some reasons why stress could be influencing the size of your waistline:

Stress causes the release of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates fat storage (especially the storage of fat around your middle).

It can also affect the balance of other hormones such as our sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) and thyroid hormone, all of which also influence the way in which we use up energy and store fat.

Stress also causes chronic inflammation in the body - this can lead to problems with regulating our blood sugar which means we end up craving sugary foods more.

Stress also impacts digestion which means we're probably not absorbing our food as well as we could, which in turn could lead to biochemical imbalances within the body.

Some biochemical imbalances have been shown to lead to weight gain. Recent studies have also shown that stressed people overeat more (usually in an attempt to improve their mood).

Happily, nutrition can really help to support stress levels, here are a few tips how:

  • Make sure you eat protein with every meal and snack; we make all of our hormones from protein so it is really important to provide the body with the raw materials for this. Good sources of protein include: fish, chicken, meat, eggs, beans, pulses and tofu.
  • Aim to eat plenty of good fats, our brain is 60% fat and a happy brain means a happy (unstressed) body. Sources of good fats include: oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring) nuts and seeds. Walnuts and pumpkin seeds are particularly good as they have the highest Omega 3 content (and omega 3 is particularly important for brain health).
  • Try to eat foods rich in tyrosine as this is the raw material for dopamine, one of our good mood neurotransmitters (or brain chemicals). Tyrosine-rich foods include: chicken, eggs, apricots, cranberries, kiwis, soya, cheese and nuts.
  • Another important neurotransmitter is serotonin, and this can be made from foods rich in tryptophan, so try to include these in your diet. These are: turkey, almonds, tofu, miso, eggs, seaweed and seafood.
  • Try to increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, Vitamin C in particular is used up and a very fast rate when we're stressed so providing the body with a steady supply is very important.
  • If you're having problems unwinding you might want to try eating magnesium-rich foods as magnesium is fantastic for relaxing the body. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, chard, almonds, avocados and black beans.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, sometimes focusing on supporting your stress levels rather than following a strict weight loss programme can be the hidden key to successful weight loss.

Nutritionist Resource is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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