Holiday Weight Loss Survival Guide: Stress

December 5, 2016

blog_holidayseries5One of the biggest ironies about the peaceful and joyous holiday season is that it can be one of the most stressful times of year for many people. And for anyone trying to lose weight, higher stress levels can spell even more trouble, primarily due to how stress hormones contribute to weight gain.

In the second part of the Holiday Weight Loss Survival Guide, we’re focusing on what you can do to reduce holiday stress and stay on track with your weight loss place.

According to an American Psychological Association survey, about 25 percent of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale. What they are referring to is chronic stress and not the kind of situational stress that is designed for survival (e.g., jumping out of the way of an oncoming speeding car). The danger is that chronic stress keeps a hormone called cortisol at elevated levels, which increases appetite and motivation to eat. In a nutshell, high cortisol levels puts people at risk for stress eating (you can learn more about cortisol in our Weight Loss Talk podcast on hormones). And with rich and sugary foods being a staple of the holiday season, it’s more important than ever to keep stress levels in check.

It’s our goal to help you stay focused on your weight loss plan while enjoying the festivities. Here are our tips for lowering stress during the holidays:

Strength in numbers. If going home for the holidays or attending an office party provides a great deal of stress, consider bringing a supportive friend or loved one with you. You can each serve as each other’s safety zone and accountability partner should anxiety start to rise.

Work it out. Exercising has a myriad of health benefits, which include relieving stress through the release of feel good endorphins. A 20-minute walk can help clear the mind, reduce anxiety, and burn extra calories. Try it after a holiday meal instead of nestling into the couch for some TV time.

Talk it out. The holiday season is a great time to catch up with friends and family. If you’re going through tough times, now might be the best time to let them know you’re in need of support. Talking to a friend or loved one about your problems may lift a burden off your chest and offer insight you can use to deal with your stressors. Talking it out also includes your medical provider. Behavioral counseling helps you learn ways to deal with emotions, hunger cravings, and stress eating.

Get more shuteye. Getting a good night’s sleep has direct links to stress reduction. As we mentioned in part one of our Weight Loss Holiday Survival Guide, try to determine if that late-night holiday party is really worth the potential of experiencing weight gain. It’s okay if you decide it is because you know how to handle a setback, but the important thing is to be aware of how a lack of sleep can affect your stress levels, and in effect, your weight.

Meditate. Meditation is a wonderful way to reduce stress levels, but according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), only 8% of American adults do it! There are so many different types, ranging from breath-focused to mindful meditation, that there is bound to be a method that works for you. When you find one you like, you’ll find that making time for those still, peaceful moments away from the holiday buzz can provide level of zen that can only help with your weight loss goals.

Don’t let stress get the best of you this holiday season. There are many ways to lower your stress and improve your weight in the process. And don’t forget, if you want more information on cortisol and other hormones that impact weight loss, listen to our podcast, CMWL Weight Loss Talk With Dr. Pinto!

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