Many women find themselves in a constant battle of the bulge. It’s important to keep in mind that losing and maintaining weight is really a mind-body balancing act. Both need to work together to achieve weight loss goals.

We often think that to shed pounds, all we need to do is hit the gym more frequently and chow on healthier foods. However, keeping a positive mental attitude is just as critical. This is because during stressful times and events, the body releases cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone” or “fight-or-flight hormone.” Cortisol is important for the maintenance of blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It also stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism and the release of insulin. However, studies have shown that stress and elevated cortisol can cause the dreaded stomach fat.

In addition to causing weight gain, living with excess anxiety is harmful. Stress is related to a variety of diseases and health risks. By managing your stress and the tendency to overeat, you’ll improve your physical and mental health. Read on for suggestions on managing stress.

1. Recognize the Patterns

Pinpoint when you tend to feel anxious or moody. Perhaps you find yourself overeating in the late afternoons or evenings when dealing with your child’s witching hour. Or, once your child finally goes to bed, you might feel like you deserve a reward such as comfort food, like pizza or ice cream. Alcohol is another big source of extra calories that can easily creep up on you. Even a few evening cocktails or a glass of wine can make it harder to shed pounds.

2. Be Attuned to Your Emotions

Many people find they overeat as a result of emotional triggers, also known as emotional eating. To curb this, recognize when your feelings get pushed to the limits. Perhaps this happens around certain people, during particular events or holidays, or in stressful environments. In addition, some people overeat to numb painful emotions.

3. Schedule Your Favorite Activities

Once you’ve prepared for your tough emotions and triggers, identify what soothes and relaxes you. For example, if you know that the end of the day is an especially stressful time, plan your evening differently. Have a book or crossword puzzle ready or take a bath in lieu of drinking a glass of wine, which just adds unnecessary calories.

4. Enlist a Support System

Even if it’s for one or two visits, meeting with a professional such as a dietitian, nutritionist, psychologist or fitness instructor can be beneficial. An expert helps you to determine problematic behaviors and how to fix them. Don’t worry about making a long-term financial or time commitment to this person. A few sessions can make all the difference.

5. Don’t Starve Yourself

Eat at least three proper meals every day. Many women skip essential meals because they think it assists with weight loss. However, this often leads to overeating later in the day and poor snack choices. Try eating every three hours and have breakfast— the most important meal of the day. In addition to your three healthy meals, add a snack, such as a quarter cup of nuts or some fresh fruit and vegetables. Pre-cutting and packaging a big bag of veggies is a great way to ensure you have something nutritious to nibble on throughout the day. Eating a lot is a good thing— as long as you’re chomping on the right foods!

6. Relax the Mind

Relaxation techniques, like guided meditation or visualizations, keep you calm and more aligned with your healthy eating and overall wellbeing. Practicing relaxation methods at night is a great way to wind down and not analyze the next day’s to-do list.

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