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The Link Between Stress and Weight Gain: How to Break the Cycle

mindfulness May 01, 2023

We all know that stress sucks!

It's that horrid feeling of overwhelm, foreboding, or worry. Unfortunately, stress is all too common in our society, and it's very harmful to our health. Did you know that, in addition to making us unhappy, tired, and overwhelmed, too much stress can also make us gain weight?

When we get stressed, stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are released into the bloodstream. These hormones are produced by the adrenal gland, which sits just above your kidneys. The physical stress response is known as the “fight or flight” response, which is our primal, non-voluntary response to a threat. This threat may be real or perceived. Life threatening or not, it's the perception of a threat that causes the stress response. The threat could be running late for school pickup or being chased by a bear. Our body’s stress response is the same. It floods our body with glucose, ready to run away from the bear, when maybe we're actually stuck in traffic with no way to burn off this glucose!

Too much stress is bad for us, both emotionally and physically. Chronic stress can make us gain weight. When cortisol is activated too much and too often, it actually increases our fat storage.

But there is good news. Even if we can't get rid of stress completely, we CAN reduce its harmful effects. One way to do this is to reduce our background stress and our baseline cortisol level through the very powerful and profound process of meditation.

Meditation is a very powerful tool for reducing the weight-gaining and health-harming effects of stress. Set aside just three minutes a day to get started. You don't need a special place to meditate, you can meditate anywhere you feel comfortable and where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Take deep breaths, focus on yourself, and be kind to yourself. There is no wrong way to meditate, so be accepting of whatever happens.

We can't always change our external environment or the way other people behave, but we can reduce the stress in our lives by setting boundaries, saying "no" (a powerful word!), and getting our priorities straight. Bills will need to be paid, children will be children, co-workers will be co-workers, and sometimes the washing will get rained on. But by changing the way we react to stress and making ourselves more resilient, we can reduce its harmful effects and improve our overall health and wellbeing.

 Remember, a little bit of stress is normal, but too much stress can be harmful. So, take care of yourself, reduce stress in your life, and start meditating today!

We are aware that some people may be hesitant to try meditation, believing that it's too difficult or time-consuming. The truth is, there are many ways to practice meditation that don't require a significant time commitment or any specific equipment.

For those of you who feel that they can't meditate, it's worth noting that meditation can take many forms. Mindful cooking, for example, can be a form of active relaxation. By focusing on the task at hand, being present in the moment, and paying attention to your senses, you can achieve a meditative state. Similarly, listening to music mindfully can be another form of active relaxation. By listening to your favourite music and noticing when your mind wanders off, you can gently bring it back to the moment and achieve a sense of calm and focus.

The magic of relaxation is that it changes your physiology back into rest and digest mode, and these changes persist even when you are not meditating. Your brain chemistry and physiology change, which can have a powerful impact on your health. Even a few minutes of meditation or relaxation per day can be beneficial. It's a small, achievable time investment for the wonderful brain-changing, life-changing, and body-shape changing benefits of regular meditation.


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