The hidden connection between stress and your weight

Medical scale

If you have been struggling with your weight, you have plenty of company. About two-thirds of North Americans are overweight or obese. Losing weight is not easy. There are many factors that affect our weight including dietary choices, activity level, hormones, genetics and even stress. The connection between stress and weight gain may come as a surprise, but research is uncovering various ways that stress can pack on the pounds.

Stress can trigger unhealthy eating habits, such as binging on carbs or sweets, overeating and drinking alcohol (empty calories). It also hinders our ability to get a good night’s sleep. And recent research has revealed that lack of sleep can trigger weight gain by raising cortisol levels and altering levels of the appetite-controlling hormones leptin and ghrelin. In other words, those urges to snack when you’re tired may be, in part, biological.

So if you want to boost your weight-loss efforts, try the following de-stressing strategies:

Get another hour of sleep. Most of us are getting six or fewer hours of sleep at night. Aim for seven to eight hours. Not only will this help reduce your stress, but sleep is also important for immune health, brain function and even heart health.

Stay away from prescription sedatives. They are associated with numerous side effects including memory loss, addiction, tolerance and next-day drowsiness. If you need help relaxing, look for a supplement that contains Suntheanine. This amino acid promotes calming and relaxation, and even improves sleep quality, without any adverse effects.

Take a deep breath. Research at University of California at San Francisco found that women who did 2.7 minutes of deep breathing avoided stress-related weight gain. This is simple and something from which everyone can benefit.