Globally, health experts agree that incidences of stress and obesity are rising. In the US, recent studies show that up to 1 in 5 adults often or always feel lonely, anxious, or depressed. Similarly, obesity is growing rampant, with two-thirds of all adults in the US qualifying as such. 

As it happens, the fact that these two issues are on the rise at the same time is no coincidence. Health experts have found that excess weight and heightened stress levels perpetuate a toxic cycle, where one encourages the development and progression of the other. This is concerning since the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that obesity-related complications are responsible for nearly three million deaths from around the world every year. With this in mind, it’s important to understand how stress and weight are connected and how to cultivate a positive weight-loss mindset. 

Where weight and stress meet

Although stress is primarily mental and weight is physical, they are undeniably linked, where one’s symptoms manifest in the other. To start, when the body is stressed, it causes hormonal changes. Chief among these fluctuating hormones is cortisol, which regulates the body’s fight-or-flight mode. During this period, the metabolism naturally slows. High cortisol levels also cause slower production of the hormone leptin, which controls feelings of satiety and hunger. Without enough of this, appetites can increase and lead to weight gain. Stress can also demotivate a person from pursuing weight management methods like diet and exercise.

Meanwhile, eating is a self-coping method for many people, even though any relief it brings is temporary and causes more problems down the road. For some people, what makes weight management tricky is that the extra pounds slowly creep up, making many underestimate the impact of what they’ve gained. However, when you look at the difference between overweight and obese individuals, it’s clear that graduating to obesity carries severe health issues. The extra adipose tissue you gain when obese can trigger inflammation and deregulate blood sugar. Over time, this can lead to up to 200 pressing chronic ailments. A few examples of this include sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers, gallstones, and, of course, anxiety and depression. Societal biases against obesity can also heighten any depressive ideation. From here, the two continue to impact each other, while an individual just gains more weight and feels more depressed. 

Ways to manage mindset

Obesity is not easy to reverse, but having a positive mindset is the first step in the process. To begin, try to be more compassionate with yourself. We are our own worst critics, so the next time you find yourself thinking overly harsh thoughts about yourself, picture saying this to somebody you care about. Instead, surround yourself with a support system that can quell any of your self-criticisms and lift you up. Having this kind of support is not only inspiring but also a great opportunity for you to receive first-hand tips that can help you.

Next, find a weight loss approach that suits you. There’s no point in following the latest diet or exercise if you find it unsustainable. Even if the approach you opt for is slower to show results, if it’s something you can maintain, you’re bound to feel more fulfilled. For example, if you’re not too keen on traditional gym classes, maybe you’re better off with something like walking. Though more low impact, it’s free, easy to do, and great at helping lower stress, blood pressure, and overall body weight. When you’re doing something, you actually enjoy, it’s easier to keep a level head and keep going, even when the going gets tough. 

Finally, learn to celebrate small wins. Most people end up hyper-fixating on their bigger goals. While not losing sight of what you ultimately want is good, these big goals do take time to reach. As such, you may feel like this goal is so far off and you’re not working to get there fast enough. Naturally, this can lead to feelings of depression. To fight this off, recognize your mini milestones. Doing this helps you acknowledge the progress you’ve made so you can cut yourself some slack and see that you are making changes slowly but surely, along the way to unlocking your best life!

Article written by Sophia Emma Exclusively for Lifestyle Magazine

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