In the big picture of weight loss and weight control there are 7 major biological factors affecting our genetic makeup that dictate whether our bodies are prone to being thin or heavy. Of these 7 key factors there are 2 that drive 95% of weight regain and weight rebounds, and these 2 factors are what we like to focus on.
The hypothalamus is the region of the brain that processes our perception of mental and emotional stress, and also manages nearly every important system that affects weight loss; blood sugar regulation, satiety, blood pressure, thyroid function and thermogenesis. While other factors, like the stress hormone, cortisol, are not directly controlled by the hypothalamus, they are indirectly affected by how this part of the brain functions and how it manages our stress.
Stressful situations trigger a “flight or fight” response in the body, which signals cortisol to be released. Back in the day when people were met with life-threatening stressful situations – like an animal attack – our bodies became trained to release hormones to help us react quickly and replenish our nutrients. Cortisol is one of these hormones that signals our brain to replenish our food stores. While this was useful back in the day, when today’s stressors are more likely to include unpaid bills and running late to work, a trigger to replenish food stores can lead to serious weight gain – especially when stress levels are higher than ever.
For decades, researchers have been quantifying how important it is for us to do everything we can to change our brain’s reaction to stress in order to have more successful weight loss. The verdict is that if we do little or nothing to assist the hypothalamus, then we fall into the 95 percentile of those who rebound in weight gain. If we do things to assist it, we successfully land in the 5% of people who don’t rebound or regain weight.
Stress is part of our daily lives. Whether it comes from work, relationships, traffic, family, or even just a trip to the dentist, stress essentially comes from the acts of daily living. Most people have some outlet to help relieve stress, but there are certain methods that are better for weight loss than others! The #1 way to relieve stress in a way that supports weight loss is through activity, and the way we look at activity for weight loss is changing. Activities that relieve stress aren’t so much about burning calories through cardio or strength training, and should instead focus on conscious actions to calm the mind.
So, before you run out to sign up for a gym membership, read these tips to relieve stress and promote weight loss!
- Spend five minutes or more doing deep breathing exercises (also called meditation) five times per week.
- 30 minutes of walking, five times per week. Try waking up 30 minutes early to get this in before work, or take a stroll around the block during your lunch break! With the warmer weather coming up, this is a great excuse to get up from your desk and soak in some much needed Vitamin D.
- Take a break (a.k.a. don’t eat lunch at your desk). Taking time out of your day to rest your brain is not only essential for efficient brain function, it also helps to lower stress levels. Even a few 15 minute breaks throughout the day can help to relieve stress.
- Get enough sleep. We’ve all heard that 8 hours of sleep per night is the goal, but when it comes to stress, the amount of sleep is less important than when we get to sleep. Being asleep by 10 p.m. or earlier yields best results.
- Reducing the non-work related screen time (TV, video, computer) by 30 minutes per day is amazingly successful. Turn off the TV during meal times, and turn off all electronics at least an hour before going to bed.
- Stretch more. Just five minutes of stretching can release trapped, toxic stress hormones from body tissues for better detox and faster weight loss. Do this five time per week.
- Eat more detoxifying foods. Eating foods that are high in detoxification properties helps to flush excess toxins from the body, helping us feel lighter and less stressed. Try eating these detox specific foods for best cleansing results.
- Be aware of your posture. Set the clocks on your computers to ring every hour as a reminder to check in on your posture. Whether sitting or standing, good posture assists your hypothalamus manage your daily stress! As an added bonus, good posture also promotes digestion.
- Ask yourself whether or not you are hungry at every meal and snack. This mindful eating will reduce your stress eating, and taking a minute to assess how your body is feeling will help to lower stress levels.
The key is being mindful of habits that support weight loss while loosing the ones that create stress and weight gain. For a more individualized approach to stress reduction and weight loss, set up a free consultation at one of our Weight Loss Centers today!