Cut Stress, Lose Weight

There is a very confusing phenomenon that occurs in this day and age: that no matter how many dieting tricks, fab ab workouts or hypnotherapy sessions you swear by, you still might not lose any weight or be able to keep it off.

The truth about “stress”

While genetics, BMIs and the general consensus that over-eating is normal-eating play their roles, there’s also another minor but critical reason for this phenomenon. It is this: that humans bodies are not really designed to reduce fat in over-stimulating, highly stressful environments like the ones we’ve constructed for ourselves in this day and age.

Chances are, if you’re sitting somewhere comfortably reading this in a well-lit room, you actually live in highly stressful environments that your primitive body has yet to catch up to. If there’s often WiFi running, music playing, laptops open, cellphones chiming, televisions talking and electricity buzzing at places you work, live and/or play at, chances are your body is frequently in a state of over-stimulation, high anxiety and stress. Not just some of the time, but all of the time. Not just for one reason, but for multiple reasons.

When your body feels stressed, it injects this thing called cortisol into your system. More cortisol helps you be more alert to what might possibly be threatening your life and either fight or run away from it (“fight or flight”). Once you address the problem, by either fighting it or running away from it successfully, your cortisol levels return to normal. Here’s the thing, though: How do you fight an environment? Our bodies are smart; it has figured out that it can’t. It has decided to simply adjust to a new normal. It has learned to live at a higher cortisol baseline. “That’s great! We’re evolving!” you might say. So what’s the caveat? Well, this doesn’t mean that your body has stopped fearing for its life; it means that your body still fears for its life but can’t figure out why or how to solve it so it has accepted it.

What this has to do with losing weight

What does this have to do with weight? Well, your body automatically does useful things like storing up energy for you when they know that you’re about to engage in a gruesome battle or need to run far, far away. Cortisol is the warning signal for your body to activate this fight or flight system. This means when cortisol levels go up, your body turns on war rationing mode and avoids burning away useful energy you’ll need later on. What happens if you don’t actually fight anything or run away from anything? Here’s your answer: it keeps on storing energy, including all the fat it can get.

How to really cut stress from your life

If you believe that this phenomenon carries some validity and want to take some steps to combat it, it’s all too possible. Here’s three things you can start doing today to really reduce stress and convince your body that it’s okay to let go of some extra energy reserves:

1. Turn off your electronics

Don’t just put them on silent mode or cover them with a blanket. I mean shut it down, power it off, unplug it. Electronics don’t just operate in the world we can see and touch. They also operate in a world of frequencies, and they continue to participate in it even when its LED screen isn’t shining. Get in the habit of powering down your electronics and you’ll feel your body powering up.

2. Breathe deeply

There’s all kinds of benefits to breathing deeply regularly, and I’m about to add to that list. When you get into the habit of breathing deeply, you reduce cortisol levels because it suggests your life is actually not in any real danger. Taking deep breaths is a natural cue that tells your body to stop producing so much cortisol (and storing up all that fat, damn it!) Take some deep breaths right now. Close your eyes. Go on, this article will still be here after you’re done. See how good it feels? Get into the habit of doing it all the time.

3. Visit nature

This is my favorite way to really reduce stress, and you’ll probably find that it is yours too. Find a favorite trail, a park, a random forest or maybe just a serene meadow that other people call a soccer field. Rain or shine, visit these awesome spots and let yourself do nothing. Let your body feel comfortable with what it knows best and will always know best. Trust me, it’ll thank you in a very flattering way. Best part? It’s absolutely free.

So there you have it. Just one more list of things to put on your to-do list and hopefully cross off. Hopefully sooner than later, though. Not just for appearances, but for general peace of mind as well. Live long and prosper.