Monday, July 7, 2014

Nutrition Notes by Dietitian Jess - Stress & Weight loss

STRESS & Weight loss, what is the connection?

We live in a fast paced world that is full of stress. Stress that we are undoubtedly aware of and stress that is subtle. Unfortunately a lot of time when stress hits us we let go of our focus on health, nutrition and wellness, or we use food to cope with the stress.  

A little stress can be good for us, but it is the chronic stress that can cause our body to respond in a way that inhibits weight loss. Chronic stress can lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol which the body perceives as the need to store energy for a stressful event coming, ie our “Fight or Flight response”. This was very helpful eons ago when we were having a famine with our food supply or we had to fight lions, tigers and bears. Unfortunately we don’t have that same kind of stress anymore, but our bodies don’t recognize the change in our society. So the body starts storing extra energy and slowing down metabolism to prepare, but the stressful event never truly happens it just keeps building up.

What I see with most of my clients is that they can recognize when life is causing them stress, but they don’t always recognize the stress they are causing themselves. What do I mean by this…if you are working on weight loss, I will ask you this one question? “How many times a day will you weigh yourself and/or what percentage of the day do you think about weight loss?” I am guessing you know where I am going with this. Obsessing is a form of stress and I see this almost daily with my weight loss clients.  Weighing daily or multiple times per day can increase your thoughts and stress about losing weight or gaining weight. I recommend weighing yourself one time per week at the same time each week. This way you can see consistent changes vs. daily fluctuations. Weight loss does not occur from day to day; it typically happens at a slower pace and should be judged by the week or month not the morning, noon, and night fluctuations!

Coping with stress, the hypothalamus in the brain controls our emotions, hunger, fullness, and sexual pleasure. No wonder why people tend to struggle with emotional eating when they are stressed or use food to cope with stress. Consider seeing a mental health professional and try some of these quick ideas for home…meditation, prayer, working out, calling a friend, screaming into a pillow, writing in a journal, punching a punching bag (not a person), etc… to cope during stressful times. Taking just  5 to 10 minutes per day to do some time of stress management or coping technique can help decrease this chronic stress and cortisol level. 

Too many times I see people throw their nutrition, fitness and weight loss goals out the window when stressful times hit. However it seems like each week there is something stressful going on, so it is important to learn how to cope with stress on a daily basis as it appears it is not going away. So next time you think “Why am I not losing weight?” remember to not only check your nutrition & fitness routine but also take a look at your stress and how you are coping!

This blog is written by Registered Dietitian Jessica A. Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT you can contact her at , 402-669-2705 or visit for more information on Jessica and her services.

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