Originally, our bodies developed to react to danger fast. Millions of year ago, we were on constant alert so we could run, freeze or fight if threatened. When your brain gets certain message, such as your life being in danger it stimulates the release of adrenaline and cortisol, two stress hormones. These trigger the fight or flight response which is incredibly efficient. They also provide instant energy for 5-10 minutes allowing you to react quickly to dangerous situations.
Unfortunately, these days many of us live with chronic stress. Our bodies can’t distinguish between work pressure, missed trains, being late for appointments, financial problems, bullying at work, family disputes and the threat of a predator. All of these indicate stress to our brains, but only the predator actually warrants a flight or fight response. But our brain does not distinguish, so it reacts exactly the same as it’s always done.
The problem with our modern lifestyle is that stress (our ‘perceived threat’) can be almost continuous. And nowadays it comes without the natural release that either fighting or fleeing would provide. Unless you do something physical (as your body is expecting you to) all that extra energy, in the form of fat and glucose, has nowhere to go. It must be simply re-deposited as fat. And if we don’t learn how to reduce stress we gain weight.
The main reason some people accumulate more fat around their middle than others is specifically because of the action of the stress hormone cortisol.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) guides our digestive functions. This part of the nervous system is responsible for getting your stomach churning. It also controls the secretion of enzymes in the digestive process and allows nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. The ANS also tells your body when to stop digesting food, such as when your belly is empty or when you’re in fight-or-flight response (it’s all hands on deck to use your body’s energy to survive).
Two parts of the ANS help it accomplish these two tasks of digestion and stopping digestion: the sympathetic and parasympathetic system. The sympathetic branch activates the stress response and suppresses digestive activity. The parasympathetic branch relaxes the body and activates digestion. It might be helpful to think of these two parts of the nervous system as on-and-off switches.
Simply put, the same part of our brain that turns on stress turns off digestion. And conversely, the part of the brain that turns on the relaxation response turns on full, healthy digestive power. So eating healthy nutritious food is only part of being healthy; it is no good unless you are in the ideal state to digest and assimilate that food.
So what can you do to reduce stress?
Eating healthily – NO dieting – will reduce stress!
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Eat little and often
- If you eat every 3 hours this keeps your blood sugar and energy levels stable. So stick to normal mealtimes but have a healthy snack including protein mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This will stop cravings for sweet foods. As your cortisol levels reduce you will automatically start to feel better and calmer inside.
- Avoid sugar, white pasta and bread
- Add protein to each meal
- Protein slows down the rate the stomach processes food, so you feel fuller for longer.
- Eat essential fats like oily fish, nuts, vegetable oil and seeds
- They slow down the rate at which the stomach empties, so making carbohydrates even more slow-releasing
- They boost your metabolism
- They make you less insulin resistant
- They reduce inflammation
- Eat mindfully
- Watch what you drink
- Cut out sugary drinks
- Significantly reduce alcohol intake
- Change the way you think about food. This is change for a lifetime, not a fad diet
If you would like to find out more how to reduce stress and eat healthier and how hypnotherapy can help with the process, get in touch with me, Samantha Culshaw-Robinson. I’m a clinical hypnotherapist and I have been helping people lose weight since 1988. For a full range of programmes please visit my Weight Loss page.
If you would like to book in for a session, please fill in your contact details on my consultation page.
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