Learn How To Manage Stress Better to Feel and Look Better

Fall is such a busy season! Kids are back to school, you are back to work and commuting. Back to so much to do. The weather is changing, the days are getting shorter, nature is going to sleep, and your mood might be changing also! Halloween is around the corner. Candies are appearing everywhere. And yes, we are starting to think about Thanksgiving, snow storms, the Holiday season and its inevitable food galore, and of course, weight gain. So stress is back, if it ever left you. Why not try to enter winter with calm and serenity. We hope this article will help you:

– Understand the impact of stress on your body

– Find ways to manage it better

– Eat foods that are important for stress management

Woman juggling
Nowadays stress is constant. Stress makes you fat in three ways. Stress used to be triggered infrequently, by the rare wild beast attack, violent thunderstorm, or the like. The brain evolved to respond to these threats with the flight or fight reaction. Then, when the threat subsided, your brain would settle back into a quieter state.

But now stress is triggered nonstop. It is the never-ending commute, the holiday season shopping, the security at the airport, the looming deadlines at the office, juggling family and work, you name it. Constant stress has an impact on your mental and physical health.

 So Here Are The 3 Ways Stress Is Making Us Fat:

#1. In a fight or flight situation, cortisol and adrenaline are released to trigger a cascade of chemical reactions. They mobilize glucose in the body to supply the extra energy required by the large muscles of the legs and arms. Your heart beat goes up, your body temperature rises, your senses get more acute. You’re in a state of intense alert. But you’re not actually running or fighting. You may be just stuck in your car, in a meeting, or at the doctor’s office.

That means that the extra glucose that was released to help support the physical exertion is not used up. Other hormones like leptin are disrupted and are now increasing your appetite. But your brain doesn’t know that – it thinks you need to replenish your stock. Time to reach for sugary foods! That’s why stress can make you fat. And that’s why you should not always feel guilty if you are reaching for that cookie after a big stressful event. It is not your lack of will power, it is your body chemistry.

#2. When stressed, our primitive brain takes over our logical, objective and analytical brain and replaces it with survival mode. It becomes difficult to make logical, rational decisions. You will forget to stop, pause, think, weigh in on your decision. There is no way to stop you from opening the fridge frantically and getting an ice cream.

#3. Our brain will also look for sugar-based foods for their amazing ability to help release the “feeling good” neurotransmitter serotonin. This is the emotional side of the story. But also, cortisol robs the brain of serotonin. So this means that you will look for something that helps you release more serotonin, and what is better than sugar!

This is why it is integral to develop tricks and tips to fight these situations. One includes something imperative in today’s life: de-stressing.


Now, How Do We Fight Stress?

#1. Recognize the warning signs of stress. What are your stressors and how can you manage them? Sometimes people live so out of touch with themselves that they do not even realize what they feel anymore. Are you getting tense, frazzled, unfocused? Feel it, give it a name and understand its impact. It is the first thing you need to do. And then let go of the negative emotion.

#2. If you reach for that sweet at a moment of stress, try to turn your attention to something else. Find a distraction strategy – it will be different at the office, at home etc.  Make a call, go for a walk, engage in a conversation… Make it happen, just do it and things should start to get better, especially if you have the discipline to practice your distractions list OFTEN.

#3. Learn problem-solving skills. Sometimes we create our own problems. My worst enemy is lack of anticipation for a situation I should have foreseen. Learn to better anticipate issues, and then being armed with a solution will wash half of the stress away.

#4. If you cannot avoid tough situations, develop a strategy to deal with them or avoid them. Is it a tough commute, a crazy job? What can you do during that commute to make it more bearable? Listen to music, meditate, work from home once a week…There is always a solution.

#5. Find your new favorite way to recharge your batteries and evacuate stress. Some of us like being active, some need more of a relaxation, or both. Have you tried yoga or meditation? Or just a 30 minute hike when you come back from the office? What about a massage once a month? Trying new activities, because they haven’t been experienced before, will create an extra positive stimulation and happiness boost.

#6. Be active, even if you just walk. Releasing energy will help calm you down. Physical movement is crucial to get the tension out. It will release endorphins and supply fresh oxygen to your cells.

#7. Get lots of sleep. Lack of sleep is not good in general but is also linked to weight gain and poor performance. Your brain needs to rejuvenate and this is what it does when you sleep. It is during the night that your synapses, neurotransmitters and all the little players in your brain mend malfunctions, create new pathways and regain strength.

#8. Engage your friends and family into a dialogue, finding solutions if you feel you have to much on your shoulders. Sometimes it is just fine to ask for help. You may be surprised at how easy it is and how willing people are to help you.

Foods to Fight Stress!

fruits in shopping cart

Surprise, surprise! It is usually recommended to eat fresh and whole foods, in moderation, and with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Most nutrients we need to combat stress are contained in fresh foods: the anti-oxidants vitamins A,C and E, the very important vitamin B Complex, magnesium, zinc, Omega 3 and more. The two most important however are the vitamin B complex and magnesium. One very important vitamin is the B family. It is often called the anti-stress vitamin complex and is composed of:

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine. It will help the body manufacture protein, energy production and will support brain functions in general

Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic acid. This anti-stress vitamin is important for the adrenal cortex function and the regulation of adrenaline

Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine. This one is very important for mental functions and mood stability, especially when stress occurs. It has a role in protein utilization and cardiovascular health (it works in synergy with Vitamin B5)

Vitamin B12. It is called the red vitamin and contains cobalt needed against anemia. Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of the nerve tissue and the general health of the nervous system. It fights tiredness and lack of energy.

Besides a Vitamin B Complex that you can take as a supplement, you will find these vitamins in:

Vitamin B1: Brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, salmon, brown rice, whole grains, liver and pork

Vitamin B2: Broccoli, spinach, soybeans, brewer’s yeast, eggs, whole grains

Vitamin B6: Bananas, whole grains, wheat germ, brown rice, chicken, salmon

Vitamin B12: Salmon, milk, eggs, tofu, chicken, shellfish

The Mighty Magnesium

Magnesium is needed to convert carbs, proteins and fat into energy. Magnesium also helps to calm or sleep and is often recommended to be taken at bedtime. It is necessary for muscle relaxation and this is why a telling sign of magnesium deficiency is leg cramps.

Magnesium keeps the blood flowing freely and prevents abnormal thickening when clotting reactions would be dangerous.

Chronic stress depletes your body of magnesium even if you beat it regularly. The lower your magnesium level to begin with, the more reactive to stress you become and the higher your level of adrenaline will be in stressful situations

As a supplement it is recommended to take 500mg a day
(at bedtime) and the best food sources are:

– Dairy products
– Fish, meat, seafood
– Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas
– Black strap molasses, brewer’s yeast
– Green leafy vegetables (except spinach/chard rich in oxalic acid that hinders its absorption)


Have a Wonderful, Stress-Free Life. And Do Not Forget to Enjoy it, Even While You Work!


Dancing people Veer January 2014


Veronique Cardon, MS
Creator of The CogniDiet Programs