Now just to make sure we’re on the same page, I don’t mean that getting more anxiety will help you lose weight, so don’t start giving yourself panic attacks thinking that you’ll wake up the next morning with a six pack.
What I’m saying is that if you’re already dieting and exercising regularly and not seeing any results, your stress and anxiety that you experience throughout the day might be the missing factor that you’ve been leaving out of your diet.
So why does stressing about fat make you fat?
Whenever you experience anxiety, your mind releases the hormones cortisol, along with epinephrine and norepinephrine (which handle the “fight or flight” responses in your brain). Unlike the epinephrine brothers though, cortisol lingers in your brain for hours after you experience elevated levels of anxiety.
Cortisol triggers your body to burn fat, but also causes a spike in your appetite as a consequence. This spike in appetite, usually coupled with psychological factors linking anxiety and the urge to eat, is what leads to people overeating after they experience a stressful situation.
Studies have actually shown that women who had elevated cortisol levels’ bodies tended to allocate fat into their stomach, making it much more difficult for people with increased stress or anxiety to lose their stomach fat.
Before you consider medication, try PMR
Resorting to anxiety medication such as SSRIs or Benzodiazepines can be effective, but can also increase appetite in some individuals. It’s better to try exercise and meditation first.
Cardiovascular exercise such as running not only will obviously help you lose weight, but releases endorphins that reduce anxiety.
PMR, or Progressive Muscle Relaxation, has also been proven to lead to a reduction in anxiety. Invented in the 1920s by a physician, PMR works on the notion that since there’s a correlation between muscle tension and anxiety, a reduction in one should cause a reduction in the other.
Practicing this is simple and non-time consuming – simply tense each set of muscles for 20 seconds and then release them for 10. Start with the calf muscles, and then the quads, and so on and so forth until you reach the neck muscles.
Meditation… people, don't judge you these days… as much, at least
Meditation is also gaining more acceptance as a viable means of weight loss. Mindfulness meditation, a type of non-concentrative meditation borrowed from Buddhism, is becoming increasingly prevalent in America.
All one needs to do is to close their eyes and simply notice the continuous stream of thoughts and emotions that flow through their mind… but be mindful not to analyze them (no pun intended). The purpose of this is to condition your mind to remain in a relaxed state and be indifferent to the flow of thoughts in your mind, allowing you to handle anxious thoughts that may arise throughout the day better.
However, if you already have symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, this may not be a good option for you, since the you’re more predisposed to developing a compulsion to meditate whenever you experience the slightest bit of anxiety.
This was a guest post by Charlie Swahili