Stress Less, Lose Fat

Stress is your fat-loss plan's #1 enemy. Kick it to the curb with these six tips.
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It's been claimed that January is one of the most stressful months of the year, thanks to a barrage of bills from holiday shopping sprees, high rates of illness and low levels of sunlight, a natural mood booster. Unfortunately, stress increases the release of cortisol within your body, which can hamper your fat-loss progress by slowing your metabolism. Take control of your happiness this month with these simple tips.

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Women focus on the external stressors in their life when trying to find solutions to the impacts of stress. Women need to look at the "internal stressors," such as how they react to and deal with stress, suggests Kathy Glover Scott, MSW, motivational speaker and author of The Successful Woman (Alternative Truths, 2003), because "stress-busting begins from within." Actively creating a positive mindset will be the catalyst for de-stressing your body from the inside out: remind yourself that what happens around you may be out of your control, but how you feel about it and react to it is within your reach.

Career Crisis

A nine-year study from the Harvard Medical School found that work-related stress was closely associated with weight gain in women with higher body mass indexes. Your job can take its mental toll, so make sure there is a clear separation between your work and home life. “We cannot constantly be on our iPhones,” explains Scott. The line between you as a professional woman and you as a family woman needs to be made apparent — not only for yourself, but for the benefit of your children and spouse, as well.

Don’t Add To Your Plate

According to Scott, women tend to create internal stress more so than men; for example, when women look to reduce stress in their life, they often add more to their plate — like a weekly yoga class - as opposed to taking things out. Take a look at your weekly schedule and note where changes could be made. For instance, chores could be redistributed so that the burden of cleaning and making meals isn't all on one person (that would be you!).

Family Matters

Your friends and family obviously care about your well-being, but that doesn't mean they will immediately be receptive to your new, calmer attitude and lifestyle. “Oftentimes, the people around us aren't the most supportive of us making changes because they are used to the way we have done things,” explains Scott. “Don't expect to get permission from others to treat yourself better.” Being firm about your needs — for example, taking an hour each day to exercise or have a bath without interruption — is a way to be proactive about controlling your stress level.

Exercise Can Help . . .

That is if you are using it correctly. Scott notes that many women — especially those with type-A personalities — may turn a healthy habit like working out into a stressor by obsessing over the scheduling and type of activities they are doing. Your fitness regimen can subdue stress, as long as you don't believe you have to do it perfectly, says Scott.

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