With work and home demands our lives have become more frantic and hectic than ever. Americans have also become fatter than ever and it’s no coincidence. Recent studies have shown that stress makes us fat. But national wellness expert Dr. Erika Schwartz tells Newsmax Health that the weight-stress connection is not inevitable and offers ways to beat it.
Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, Dr. Schwartz explains. Acute stress — what we might feel before an important exam or interview — can help us think faster and clearer, she notes.
Stress is “not something we really want to avoid unless it starts eroding us,” she says. “That’s chronic stress. … It releases a hormone that is called cortisol that over the long run creates a lot of problems.”
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Chief among them is weight gain around our mid-section, which is one of the factors that make up metabolic syndrome — a group of conditions including insulin-resistance, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure that increase risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
While chronic stress can be dangerous, there are ways to manage it, Dr. Schwartz advises.
Stress is part of living, but we can avoid having too much of it by deciding what is truly important for our families, jobs, and ourselves, and saying no when we need to.
“So as we prioritize our lives we can learn how to avoid having too much stress and only dealing with the stress that is absolutely necessary,” Dr. Schwartz says.
Consider your diet. Are alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, sugar, and sugar substitutes part of what you regularly eat? Eating more greens like spinach and broccoli, which contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and nixing the sugar can help decrease stress levels.
“Sugar is deadly,” Dr. Schwartz explains. “And what it does is it increases the amount of stress hormones that are created — cortisol. And we become insulin-resistant and diabetic. So if we decrease the stressors by increasing greens, fruits, and vegetables in our diet [and] decreasing the amount of fats and processed foods, we will actually help de-stress.”
Getting enough sleep also is important because biochemical changes occur when we’re sleep-deprived that boost appetite and hunger.
As you might expect, getting regular exercise can go a long way against fighting stress.
“During exercise we burn the stress hormones and we actually de-stress,” Dr. Schwartz explains. “So being sedentary increases stress and stress’ effect on our body. …. But as we start moving we really get rid of the stress hormones and we also do better as far as being able to sleep and eat better.”
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