Being stressed can make you fat – the 8 ways to hit weight-loss goals

BEING stressed could be making you fat, researchers have claimed.

A study has found that more than a third of people who are overweight say stress is the number one reason they have piled on the pounds.

Data from LloydsPharmacy revealed that 59 per cent of people eat more when they are experiencing feelings of stress.

Beyond stress, a further 30 per cent of people believe boredom has caused their weight gain and a quarter put it down to feelings of anxiety.

LloydsPharmacy, which has recently launched a new weight loss tool also found that one in 10 people surveyed have been on a diet for as long as they can remember.

The survey also found that 46 per cent of people feel helpless on their weight loss journey.

If you're part of almost half the population who feel helpless then experts have said there are a variety of ways that you can hit your weight loss and fitness goals, while keeping stress levels to a minimum.

Here are eight tips to help you reach your goal weight.

1. Try strength training

While hitting the gym in any shape or form can boost your mood, experts say strength training can also help.

Speaking to The Sun, founders of StrongHer, Sam Prynn and Tig Hodson say this sort of training can help you feel empowered.

"If you’re having a stressful day/week, we can guarantee that heading into the gym, grabbing a barbell and achieving something you didn’t know you could then transcends into everyday life.

"This ultimately makes you feel kick ass and powerful – who’s gonna be stressed feeling like that?"

2. Exercise in a group

Some people prefer to go it alone when exercising, but Sam and Tig say group exercise can release hormones that will ultimately help us feel less anxious.

"Group exercise actually makes us release a hormone called Oxytocin aka the ‘bonding’ hormone and leaves us feeling safe and comfortable – not a bad way to bring down those feelings of stress and unhappiness!"

Online personal trainer Anna Cousins added: "Exercise can provide people with a greater feeling of community spirit, reduce loneliness and bring people together.

"Working out with a friend online at the same time or joining an online workout programme that has a community of like-minded people can be really beneficial as it feels like everyone is in it together.

"These are places where people can interact with other community members, make friends, share stories, ask questions and build a support network."


Expert reveals top three exercises to combat stress

When it comes to stress busting exercises you’ll find that ANY exercise you do is great for relieving stress!

For individuals that are obese or new to exercise it is essential that you start small and don’t overdo it, says personal trainer and winner of MTV's The Challenge: Total Madness, Jennifer West.

She recommends three exercises to get you started.

Walking: Jennifer said that walking has to be one of the most relaxing forms of exercises… particularly if the view is scenic!

"If you can walk around a local beauty spot and go at whatever pace feels comfortable for you. Stop as many times as you need to and walk with someone or listen to some music or a podcast to switch off."

Water aerobics: Jennifer says this is fantastic for anyone who is overweight.

She said: "The water will essentially carry your body weight and remove the pressure away from your joints.

"You’ll get lost in the music and the atmosphere and it will be a great way to give yourself a metal break from any stress you are experiencing."

Pottering about the house: While it might not always pop to the top of your list when it comes to exercise, Jennifer said this is a great way to get some exercise into your daily routine.

"Turn some music up, get the hoover out, plump then sofa cushions, hang some washing out etc.

"All this will help you feel fitter. Going up and down the stairs, bending down to pick stuff up and walking around the house will all help!

"You can break it down to little bits throughout the day too so it doesn’t feel daunting."

3. Meditation

Experts say meditation can help with your weight loss journey as it leaves you feeling calm – and less likely to reach for that extra class of wine or the last biscuit in the tin.

Speaking to The Sun, personal training tutor at Future Fit Training, Ross Mitchell, said people worry they need to go to the gym for two hours a day – but that just isn't the case.

He recommended weaving meditation into your routine.

Ross said: "Exercise isn’t restricted to just the physical, it can also be mental/spiritual.

"You’ll find sitting quietly for 5-10min a day with a focus on deep breathing while letting any residual tension in your muscles disappear."

Olivia Galvin, personal trainer at F45 Stratford added: "Deep breathing is a well-known way of reducing stress in the body, and when exercising, we have to think about our breath."

4. Go for a walk

There's a common misconception that exercise has to be intense to work, Marvin Burton, head of Anytime Fitness UK says.

Speaking to The Sun, Marvin said hard exercise can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often present in high levels in people who suffer with depression.

He recommended walking outside as a great way to lose weight and beat stress.

"Getting outdoors to exercise can be a great way to combat stress.

"We’ve all heard the expression of going outside to 'clear your head', but it’s so true.

"Ultimately, if you have a clearer mind, you’re more likely to achieve greater changes to both your physical and mental health."

5. Shift your mindset

Anna added that most people who are trying to lose weight with the wrong state of mind.

"People want to "fix" themselves, and therefore jump into the latest fad diet or spend a fortune purchasing new gym equipment in the hopes it can magic a positive result.

"They get obsessed with results, focus on quick fixes and lose sight of sustainability and even health."

Anna said this type of thinking can be destructive.

"The stress hormone, cortisol, which adrenal glands secrete every time a person is down on themselves, increases distribution of fat around the tummy. 

"Fortunately, the mind is a flexible thing and can adapt to change. 

"The key is to start working on fitness goals now and focus the mind on what you want to achieve", she added.

6. Get some sleep

Anna added that many people struggle to lose weight and become stressed because they don't get enough sleep.

She said: "Studies have shown that exercise is very effective at reducing fatigue and ensuring you sleep better and for longer. 

"Exercise sharpens the body’s sensitivity to the stress hormone cortisol, which can enhance sleep.

"Exercise is essentially a release valve for cortisol, helping you sleep more soundly and greet the day looking more refreshed."

She said it sends a message to the brain that you’re using the cortisol for its original purpose – movement – and that it’s safe to turn off the tap afterward.

It's important she says – to give your body this downtime and let yourself recover and relax.

"Your body is able to use the downtime for the tissue-repair work that keeps you both looking and feeling great", she added.

Olivia also highlighted that a better night's sleep is the perfect way to set you up for a productive day.

7. Make time to workout

Olivia says you never feel worse after a workout and that exercise can be used as a distraction tool from your every day tasks and chores.

Working out regularly can help you lose weight as well as keeping stress levels low.

She said: "Exercise has been proven to be a producer of endorphins, our feel good hormones which give us a feeling of pleasure.

"You’ll never walk away from a workout feeling down!"

She added that working out is a great way to divert the mind from any issues you may be facing.

"Working out is a great way of diverting the mind away from any troubles, as the only thing you have to think about is being present in the moment.

"During a workout, you’re so focused on good technique, breathing and how many reps/sets you have left, that there is little time to think about anything else."

F45's head trainer Jade Pearman added that some training sessions don't give you time to think or look at the clock – keeping your mind off any other issues you might be feeling anxious about.

She added: "Exercise is all about training, not just the body but your brain as well. 

"By working out, our brain naturally releases neurotransmitters that will actually result in making you want to train more and before you know it, you are completely addicted.

"So, the fun element of exercising helps to lure you in quicker than ever, putting your weight loss goals in clearer sight."

8. Go virtual

The coronavirus pandemic has meant that more and more of us are turning to online resources to reach our goals.

Many people still don't feel comfortable returning to the gym and experts say that there are other ways to reach your weight loss goals.

Ania Gabb, trainer at Eastnine said apps are a great tool for this.

"If you are struggling to get motivated, consider a virtual coach.

"The advantage to this is you can do it anywhere, anytime and you can adapt the session to your fitness level."

She added that working out is a great stress reliever.

"Mentally, doing exercise boosts your endorphins to help beat stress, anxiety and promotes positive mental health, as well as helping you lose and maintain a healthy weight.

"It doesn’t have to be a long difficult session, start small and gradually build up your fitness plan. The key is to just get moving."

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