Stress can be defined as a feeling that results from any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. In other words, stress is a messenger.
Our Response to Stress
Everyone experiences stress to some degree. We need to decide how we are going to respond to stress because if we don’t handle stress well, we’ll experience health consequences. Studies have shown that people who are exposed to chronic stress are more likely to gain weight, perhaps because stress can lead to increased food consumption and cravings for food high in fats and sugar. Eating these kinds of foods can activate the brain’s reward system, helping us to feel better.
Helpful Ways to Address Stress
So what are some helpful ways that we can address our stress? The first step is to observe the circumstances responsible for creating the stress in a very neutral fashion. Just consider the facts of the situation. For example, maybe you’ve just been assigned a new project and your schedule for the next several weeks is full. The next step is to consider your thoughts about your circumstances. For example, you may be thinking “There’s no way I can do this new project and attend to my other responsibilities! I wish my boss was mindful of everything I have to do!”
How Thoughts Create Feelings
The reason it’s important to think about your thoughts is that our thoughts create our feelings. It isn’t the actual circumstance that is causing our feelings of stress. It is our thoughts about our circumstances that cause our stress. It’s helpful to separate our circumstances from our thoughts and to understand how our thoughts create our feelings, because we can choose different thoughts. For example, we could choose a thought like, “I do have a lot to do over the next couple of weeks, but I trust that I will figure this out,” or “These kinds of things always work out, and perhaps there’s a way that I can get some stuff off of my plate.” Those thoughts may help you feel more calm.
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The Relationship Between Stress and Needs
Another way to think about stress is to consider the relationship between our feelings (stress) and our needs. Simply stated, when we feel pleasurable emotions like joy and happiness, it means our needs are being met. When we are feeling emotions such as stress or anger, it means our needs are not being met. As human beings, we have universal needs such as rest, peace, order, and to be valued. If you’re feeling stressed, it’s an indication that you have an important need that isn’t being met. Once you identify the need you have that isn’t being met, you can brainstorm strategies to meet that need. You can learn more about needs here: https://www.nonviolentcommunication.com.
It can be valuable for you to consider those actions that are within your control that may help you meet your needs. For example, what are you saying yes to that you could say no? Is it possible to ask for assistance? What actions might you take to meet your needs and mitigate your stress? And finally, what are those regular activities that you could implement in your life that will help you address that stress? Many people find that meditation, journaling, or regular physical activity can be very helpful. Many of us use food as a strategy to address our emotions because as human beings we don’t like feeling bad. There’s a reason why we call it “comfort food.” The problem is that this is a momentary strategy that doesn’t serve our long-term goals. Learning how to process the feeling of stress in a way that truly takes care of yourself in a non-temporary way will reap huge benefits for you including weight loss.
If you find yourself looking for guidance on how to lose weight while managing stress, get in touch with the team at Form. At Form you are paired with a Doctor and Registered Dietitian who can help you make changes to your nutrition, physical activity, and mindset so you can reach your health goals. Your Form Doctor may also prescribe FDA-approved weight loss medication, if appropriate. Take our quiz to see if Form is right for you. You can also schedule a free call with a Form Care Advisor or send a message if you have any questions.
About the Author
Maria Maldonado, MD
Dr. Maria Maldonado is an internist and obesity medicine specialist who is passionate about helping her patients achieve their health and wellness goals. She initially became interested in pursuing a career in obesity medicine after navigating her own health and wellness journey. Dr. Maldonado is board certified in Internal Medicine, and a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She is a fellow of the American College of Physicians, an educator at the Institute for Medical Education at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and a member of the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine and the Obesity Medical Association.