The Deadly Link Between Anxiety And Weight Gain

If you’re gaining weight and don’t understand why, one of the things you may be overlooking is the amount of stress and anxiety in your life.

Anxiety is the worst. And, it’s everywhere. A recent AARP poll found that non-retired boomers rated 70% on the anxiety scale. Anxiety, that cloud of fear and unease, can be about finances, health, and weight loss. Whatever the cause, one thing’s for sure: fear of what’s going to happen can be one of the biggest things holding back your health.

That’s right, excessive anxiety can be making you fat. The issue is the hormone cortisol. It tells the body to store fat, and makes you crave salty, sweet and fatty foods. And, it is triggered by the stress response. Here are a few tips on how to deal with anxiety, how exercise helps anxiety, and how reducing stress can actually turn our bodies into fat-burning machines

  • Breathe like an Olympian.I know it’s cliché but in moments of anxiety “just breathe.” But like most clichés, there’s a good reason behind it. Relaxation is one of our greatest tools when it comes to learning how to deal with anxiety, and breathing is the foundation. It’s all about the exhale. It’s something you may have noticed when watching the Olympics. Whether it was British heartthrob diver Tom Daley releasing a long, controlled exhale just as he tipped over the edge, or any of the incredibly powerful tennis players letting out a classic grunt as they swung their rackets, one thing was clear: the exhale is your everything. Of course, breathing in is an equally important part of the equation, but luckily we never have to think about it – our bodies will never not inhale. Deep breathing is key for many reasons: It slows your heart rate, increases blood flow, can help reduce chronic pain, improves concentration, and, yes, plays a major role in relieving anxiety.[stextbox id=”custom-2″ float=”true” align=”right” width=”300″]A recent study at Princeton showed that the act of running, for example, can help the brain become biochemically and molecularly calm, because exercise actually creates stress-resistant neurons. [/stextbox]
  • Count it out. So if you’d like to experience the anxiety-relieving benefits of breathing described above, try this. (Yes, everything takes practice – even good breathing.) Inhale for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four. As you do this, imagine that you’re inhaling confidence and positivity, drawing it closer and closer to you, and as you exhale, you’re pushing out all those feelings of stress and anxiety.
  • Unlock the mystery of the Amygdala. There are two brain circuits involved when we experience threats or stress and anxiety. One is the frontal lobe, where we make our more logical, conscious decisions. The other is the amygdala, the more primal, fast-acting part of the brain that helps us respond quickly – or sometimes causes us to respond TOO quickly. Relaxation techniques like the one described above don’t just help us to deal with anxiety, but they help us break away from that direct path to the amygdala, so that we can make our decisions in the frontal lobe where they belong.
  • Exercise your anxiety away. Exercise helps us deal with anxiety for many reasons. Whether it’s the empowering feeling you get from a good strength training workout, the uplifting experience of cardio (and all the deep breathing that comes with it), or the relaxation of a yoga class, working out is often just what the doctor ordered. A recent study at Princeton showed that the act of running, for example, can help the brain become biochemically and molecularly calm, because exercise actually creates stress-resistant neurons. So next time you’re dealing with anxiety, get out for a brisk walk, break out your yoga mat, or pop in a DVD. Science has shown us time and time again that what we do with our bodies has an astonishing power over our minds.