Most people understand the concept of losing weight through exercise and diet; however, one thing that is often overlooked is the importance of the mental aspect of losing weight. How you handle the stress that comes along with life’s challenges can have a direct impact on your weight loss goals. Whether you’re worried about your job, kids, or finances, there are chemical processes that take place which can affect how you respond to everything from the temptation to grab an extra cookie to whether you succumb to the urge to sleep in rather than getting up for your morning workout.
If you’re feeling down, it can have an affect the neurotransmitters that control your mood, how you think, your appetite, and even your behavior. These neurotransmitters can cause you to make poor choices, such as skip your exercise or eat things you know you would be better off not having. Of course, this behavior can lead to weight gain.
Additionally, cortisol, a stress hormone, is released by your body when your stress level is high. Cortisol can cause cravings, for high fat, high calorie foods. As you indulge in these cravings, you produce a sugar induced dopamine high, which will eventually lead to the inevitable crash, which can lead you to seek out more dopamine; and, so the cycle continues. As you consume these extra calories in a quest for more dopamine, you gain weight, and those extra calories tend to end up being stored as belly fat.
We all struggle from time to time, but here are 10 tips to help you boost serotonin, and release endorphins, which can help relieve anxiety and put you in a happier mood. Of course, being happy can help you lose weigh.
According to a recent study published in Psychological Science, smiling can instantly help ease stress. This is something anyone can do, and it can have a positive impact on your weight loss efforts.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that you are more apt to feel tired and stressed if you are dehydrated. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is an easy stress buster, and it’s a zero calorie boost. You might not be able to eliminate your problems by drinking water, but it can help keep your energy level up. This is an important factor in staying on track with your weight loss goals.
Take a walk or find another activity that will let you enjoy a mini meditation session. BMC Public Health published a study that found that taking a walk outside for 20 minutes, two times per week, was more restorative than engaging in exercise, indoors, for the same amount of time. Even if you can’t get out for a walk, there are other activities that can help you clear your mind. For example, some people find cooking to be an excellent stress reliever. Of course, you can’t be in a rush; but, if you can slow down and take your time, you’ll be able to enjoy the rhythmic chopping and wonderful scents as you prepare a healthy meal.
Stretching is a great way to reduce stress. Try doing a deep forward bend, this is a very effective stress reliever. It decompresses the spine, while also improving circulation. Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, then slightly bend your knees as you gently fold your body forward. Grab a hold of opposite elbows while letting your head drop. Hold this position for one minute. This forward bend can relieve tension in your mind as well as your upper body.
A recent study found that repeatedly checking texts and emails can cause anxiety. Break the habit of compulsively being connected to your phone or computer. At least, take a 15 minute break from your electronic devices every hour. If possible, work on unplugging for longer periods of time. Unplugging can help break the cycle of stress and anxiety, while also helping you to lose weight.
Give Your Mood a Boost
When you want to keep stress at bay and encourage more of the feel good chemicals, try adding more of these foods to your diet.
Chickpeas – contain potassium which can help lower your blood pressure. They also contain folate which is a B vitamin that is necessary for the production of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.
Walnuts – can put you in a good mood by boosting serotonin levels.
Sunflower seeds – are loaded with magnesium. A deficiency in magnesium can lower your levels of dopamine, making you feel more anxiety and stress.
Avocados – contain B vitamins that help boost serotonin to keep you feeling happy. They also contain potassium which can help lower blood pressure.
Dark chocolate – can help reduce your level of stress hormones.
Fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna, salmon, and sardines, can help make you feel calmer. A study of people who ate foods rich in omega-3s on a regular basis found that they were 20% less anxious than those who didn’t. Additionally, a study conducted by Ohio State University found that people who took an omega-3 supplement for twelve weeks had a 20% drop in anxiety levels.
There have been numerous studies showing how exercise can have serious mental health benefits. Of course, exercise is also a great way to kick up endorphins. This feel good chemical can help you beat stress and increase energy.
Enlist a Partner
If you have someone to support you in your weight loss journey, you’ll be able to improve levels of oxytocin, a feel good hormone. When you are able to find pleasure in things like hanging out with friends, engaging in a hobby, or enjoying a good conversation, you can shift your dopamine system to finding satisfaction in things other than food.
Share Your Plans
There is plenty of evidence that sharing your weight loss goals with others can help you stay on track. Let family and friends know what your diet or workout goals. They’ll be able to help support you and be a source of accountability if you are tempted to stray off course.
Incorporating these changes can help you be happier, which can be a great boost in reaching your weight loss goals.