Are long working hours taking their toll on your waist line?
A recent 2019 study has shown that women are more vulnerable to weight gain when they’re experiencing chronic stress at work! This study is the first of its kind in assessing the relationship over a 20-year period. One would immediately assume that the weight gain was due to diet quality and reduced physical activity, however neither of these aspects appeared to change throughout the years. However, the authors hypothesised that exposure to job strain may have been the cause.
Stress induced from both the mind and body can lead to a prolonged output of a hormone called cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to a loss of muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories at rest in comparison to fat, the less muscle we have the slower our metabolic rate and the easier it is to gain weight.
If chronic stress is affecting your weight, then these 6 top tips may help to keep your metabolism high and keep stress at bay…
1. Protein – little and often
Little and often is key when it comes retaining or even gaining muscle mass. Spread protein consumption throughout the day by including a quality protein source at each meal and snack.
Try – lean meat, fish, yoghurt, eggs, tofu, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds
2. Resistance training
We don’t maintain or gain muscle mass by simply eating more protein, it’s essential to carry out regular resistance training too. The current guidelines are to complete some form of resistance training at least twice a week.
Try – lifting weights, using your own body weight to complete exercises such as sit ups, squats or lunges, or even take up a Pilates class
3. Balance blood sugar
Blood sugar dips throughout the day can stimulate the release of cortisol to help normalise blood sugar levels. Three regular meals a day, which provide sustained fuel to the body and brain and minimise the risk of experiencing these blood sugar lows.
Try – to balance blood sugar by combining fibre rich wholegrain, protein, healthy fats and rainbow coloured vegetables at each meal
4. Switch your coffee for calming teas
Caffeine may help us to kick start our day; however it’s important to note that it also stimulates the stress response which puts us into a ‘fight or flight’ mode. Whilst a little caffeine may have cognitive benefits for some, over relying on coffee throughout the day result in chronically high cortisol levels.
Try – calming caffeine free teas such as chamomile, lavender tea or even lemon balm and ginger
Exercise is well proven to boost energy, mood and even reduces stress. But it’s not the marathon runs and lengthy spin sessions which lower cortisol, it’s the calming workouts such as yoga, Pilates and even Thai chi.
A 10-minute daily power walk throughout the working day can be a healthy way to manage stress and keep energy high.
Lack of sleep can result in elevated cortisol levels, which stay high throughout the day. What’s more, sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of weight gain.
Aim for 7-9 hours a night and if you struggle to sleep, try cutting out your afternoon caffeine rich coffee or tea. Include carbohydrates within your evening meal as well as a source of tryptophan such as chicken or natural yoghurt, minimise alcohol and avoid eating heavy meals just before bed.