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  • Farah Elhadidy

How Stress Impacts Your Weight + What You Can Do About It!


Believe it or not, stress has a lot to do with your overall health and your waistline. We spend so much time focusing on eating right and making sure we get our workout in, that sometimes we forget the importance of rest and relaxation. Are you guilty of neglecting your body’s call for breaks? Are we constantly stressing over our to-do lists? the bills? traffic? working out? the list goes on and on! But who isn't stressed? Our fast paced life is pretty stressful! (1)

I always tell my clients that rest is just as important as healthy food and movement. When you are stressed, your body reacts by holding on to weight. The body sees consistent stress as a threat. Stress boosts your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol levels are raised it causes your body to store fat, particularly around your midsection. Listen to your body when it’s asking for a break.

Additionally, when you are stressed, it’s quite easy to develop negative thinking patterns because you become frustrated by your challenges and frequent feelings of being overwhelmed. This negative outlook then makes it even harder for you to manage those challenges and move forward and break through the stress cycle. A vicious cycle!

Here's what you can do about stress today:

Practicing positive thinking helps you focus on your strengths and accomplishments, which increases happiness and motivation. This, in turn, allows you to spend more time making progress, and less time feeling down and stuck.

The following tips provide practical suggestions that you can use to help you shift into more positive thinking patterns, starting right now!

1. Take Good Care of Yourself. It's much easier to be positive when you are eating well, exercising, and getting enough rest. Self-care is NOT selfish.

2. Remind Yourself of the Things You Are Grateful For. Stresses and challenges don't seem quite as bad when you are constantly reminding yourself of the things that are right in life. Taking just 60 seconds a day to stop and appreciate the good things will make a huge difference.

3. Look for the Proof Instead of Making Assumptions. A fear of not being liked or accepted sometimes leads us to assume that we know what others are thinking, but our fears are usually not reality. If you have a fear that a friend or family member's bad mood is due to something you did, or that your co-workers are secretly gossiping about you when you turn your back, speak up and ask them. Don't waste time worrying that you did something wrong unless you have proof that there is something to worry about.

4. Refrain from Using Absolutes. Have you ever told a partner "You're ALWAYS late!" or complained to a friend "You NEVER call me!"? Thinking and speaking in absolutes like 'always' and 'never' makes the situation seem worse than it is, and programs your brain into believing that certain people are incapable of delivering.

5. Detach From Negative Thoughts. Your thoughts can't hold any power over you if you don't judge them. If you notice yourself having a negative thought, detach from it, witness it, and don't follow it.

6. Squash the "ANTs". In his book "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life," Dr. Daniel Amen talks about "ANTs" - Automatic Negative Thoughts. These are the bad thoughts that are usually reactionary, like "Those people are laughing, they must be talking about me," or "The boss wants to see me? It must be bad!" When you notice these thoughts, realize that they are nothing more than ANTs and let them go!

7. Hug Your Friends and Family. You don't have to be an expert to know the benefits of a good hug. Positive physical contact with friends, loved ones, and even pets, is an instant pick me up.

8. Increase Your Social Activity. By increasing social activity, you decrease loneliness. Surround yourself with healthy, happy people, and their positive energy will affect you in a positive way! Yes, it's contagious!

9. Volunteer for an Organization, or Help someone. Everyone feels good after helping. You can volunteer your time, your money, or your resources. The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you will receive in return.

10. Use Pattern Interrupts to Combat Rumination. If you find yourself ruminating, a great way to stop it is to interrupt the pattern and force yourself to do something completely different. Rumination is like hyper-focus on something negative. It's never productive, because it's not rational or solution-oriented, it's just excessive worry and stress. Try changing your physical environment - go for a walk or sit outside. You could also call a friend, pick up a book, or turn on some music.

It’s important to understand the signs of stress and react with a positive way of handling it such as these 10 tips. The key to busting stress is making sure that you look after YOU. As your happiness levels increase, your stress levels decrease. Have a look at your work life, your personal life and social life to see if there are any areas you can create more happiness. You might be surprised on what you find.

Do you know what most my clients find VERY stressful? Food!

If you find yourself wondering what’s for dinner, and it’s 5:00 pm, you probably know what I'm talking about. It happens to all of us, believe me. I’m not perfect either, but I learnt to plan things out a lot more now, and it’s a lot less stressful and a whole lot healthier.

To help you get started, I put together a free meal planning guide that includes the exact method I follow in planning my own meals.

Planning ahead is one of the most important keys to reaching your goals, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and maintaining your ideal weight. You know the saying “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” right? I find this to be so very true when it comes to leading a healthier less stressful lifestyle.


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Boston, MA                                                                                                              farah@wellnesswithinyourreach.com