How Stress Affects Weight Loss

Pamela Ofstein is the Director of Nutrition Services at, a leading provider of weight loss services, information and products.

Stress is often part of our lives. It’s hard to avoid and we unfortunately face it practically every day. But even when times get tough, there are ways to deal with it and reach our goals (in this case, weight loss).

First, recognize what you are already doing to help you reach your goal and give credit where credit is due.

Steps like walking should become a regular habit. Next, move on to making another small change, such as keeping a water bottle with you at all times to make sure you are staying hydrated; keeping cut up veggies around to snack on during the day; breathing slowly for a few minutes to de-stress (count back from 10); etc.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the effects of stress on the body are hard to counterbalance… but it can be done. Physical or emotional stress can increase cortisol levels (which are related to fat storage); it has been observed that stress itself increases the cravings affecting your weight.

So here are a few ways to de-stress with a busy lifestyle to help the body deal with stress and keep the weight off:

1. Deep Breathing – As I mentioned earlier, just a few minutes of this can really help you calm yourself and feel more energized.

2. Sleep – Most experts agree that sleeping an adequate amount each night is important, especially for dieters. If you typically get six hours of sleep or less a night, try getting a few more hours. You may just find that you aren’t as hungry, especially for those sugary, calorie-dense foods.

3. Journal – Keep a food journal to help you organize your thoughts and feelings. Many times, just getting this down on paper can help you feel less stressed.

4. Limit Caffeine – Caffeine is a stimulant and can actually increase feelings of anxiety or stress. I recommend limiting to two cups daily and it is generally best to avoid it several hours before bedtime.

5. Learn to Say No – Limiting added stress factors from other areas in your life by saying no is okay. Make sure your choices are constructive and a good use of your time. You can’t say yes to everything.

Weight loss will take some planning and time management, so make a list of simple, healthy foods that you enjoy and can eat on a regular basis. Then plan your meals around these items. Throw out any unhealthy foods and only keep the healthier items that you have listed. Having things on hand and making meal planning convenient can definitely help.

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