Mental Health Matters – Can Stress Hinder Weight Loss?

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Can Stress Hinder Weight Loss?

By:  Natalie Lawson, RD

Stress is part of our everyday life.  Work, kids, finances, relationships… and then you try and throw in something like weight loss and BOOM, you’ve got yourself an extra dose of stress!  Not to mention that weight loss causes so much stress.  Think about it… everywhere you look, there is some type of gimmick trying to tell you how to lose weight.  It causes all types of confusion, which in turn causes all kinds of stress.  It’s enough to make you want to scream!

Unfortunately, this stress creates chemical responses to trigger in our body that can bring weight loss to a halting grind.  It is called the “fight or flight response.”  Simply put… our bodies think that we are under attack and we need to survive from some kind of imminent danger.  This is most likely not the case, but our bodies prepare for the worst, therefore, making sure that we survive. This can lead to loss of muscle mass, increased fat storage (especially in the abdominal area) and impulses to overeat.

Freeing your life from stress may seem like an impossible task.  But there may be ways that will not only help with your life stresses but that can also help with weight loss.

  • Exercise: Many people think that exercising has to be all or nothing.  This is simply not true.  You do not have to spend tons of money for a gym or carve out an hour a day/5 days a week.  If you have 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there, then go for it – and most importantly… ENJOY IT!  Living in the moment and getting your heart rate up can and will alleviate stress and burn some calories.
  • Grocery shopping: Instead of spending so much time at the grocery store and walking up and down the aisles, only shop the outer corners. You will be shopping the “whole foods.”  The fruits, vegetables, meats, milks, eggs… the foods that are best for you.  You’ll be in and out, hopefully as stress-free as possible and as healthy as can be!
  • Breakfast: Cooked eggs can stay in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.  Get creative with crustless quiche recipes (ex. eggs, tomatoes, cheese, & spinach) and make a batch for the whole week.  Don’t like eggs, 2 slices of toast with avocado and cheese or peanut butter and jelly.
  • Lunch: Leftovers!
  • Dinner: Usually (at least for me) the most stressful meal of the day. But I try and make something that requires little cleaning and cooks quickly.  I have become a fan of “one pan meals.” (please see recipe below)
  • Most importantly… understand that weight loss is a process. It takes time to lose weight.  If you get stressed out that you are not losing enough weight fast enough, then you will defeat your purpose.

One Pan Chicken Fajitas

  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 bell peppers (any combination of red, green, yellow, or orange), chopped
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • ½ white or yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons taco seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • juice of 1 lime, (about 1 tablespoon
  • chopped cilantro
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Combine chicken, peppers, and onions in a large bowl. Drizzle oil over the top, then sprinkle seasonings over the top. Toss to combine.
  • Transfer everything to a sheet pan and spread out so that it is arranged in an even layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender. Drizzle with lime juice and sprinkle chopped cilantro over the top. Serve alone or over steamed rice.

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