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It is important to understand the impact of stress on weight-management efforts. We know today that what and how much we eat is only part of the reason why people struggle with their weight. Emotional well being plays a important role in weight-maintainance. and stress can and does influence weight gain.

Stress can be explained as the impact any external or internal event  has on the response of our body and the efect that response has on our body and mind. Examples of stressors are: work overload, relationship issues, health issues, the daily news and lack of sleep. The perception of what is experienced as stressful may be different for different people.

Cortisol is an important and helpful hormone in the body's response to stress and it helps to maintain homeostasis in the body. It is important that the relaxation response is activated after a stressful event so that the body's functions can return to normal.

However, in our high-stress culture the body's stress response is activated so often that it doesn't always have a chance to return to normal, causing higher levels of cortisol to stay for prolonged periods in our bodies.

This can lead to an imbalance which may eventually affect our health and cause an increase in abdominal fat, which in turn, is associated with metabolic disorder and other accompanying health risks.

The amount of cortisol secreted by different people may vary and studies show that people who's bodies release higher levels of cortisol in response to stress, tend to eat more food and their food choices tend to be higher in carbohydrates than those who's bodies release less cortisol .

Stress management techniques can help to activate the relaxation response after a stressful event so that body functions can return to normal. The following may be helpful:

To manage the effects of stress, try to employ the four A's: Avoid, alter, adapt and accept to manage ongoing stressful situations.

The following tips provide coping skills to help you manage stress better.

  • Exercise releases soothing endorphins which help you to relax.
  • Deep breathing and muscle relaxation. The concentration needed for this technique helps to distract the mind.
  • Meditation helps to suspend stressful thoughts for a while and is fairly easy to learn.
  • Separate your home and work life. Commit to unwind when you leave the office.
  • Talk about your stressors. Pent up frustrations are poisonous.
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