Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Weight Loss and Stress in Midlife Women

Weight gain is common in midlife women and isn't just the result of too many calories and too little exercise. Oh, if it were only that simple! There are many physical and emotional factors involved. Women gain weight for different reasons and what works to help one lose, might not do a thing for another. Maybe that's why "diets don't work". Weight loss plans need to be tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual. If you're saying, "No matter what I do, I can't lose weight", consider adding stress reduction to your weight loss program.

Stress and the adrenal glands play a major role in midlife weight gain. Briefly, the adrenal glands react to stress by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream. The kind of stress doesn't matter to the adrenals. It can be physical, emotional, environmental, bio-chemical or even imagined. Since midlife women experience stress in multiple aspects of life on a daily basis, cortisol remains elevated for sustained periods. It settles in the fat cells causing weight gain, typically around the middle of the body.

Elevated cortisol also effects thyroid function. And, it's no surprise that compromised thyroid function is associated with weight gain. High cortisol prohibits a normal response to the thyroid hormone signal which is sometimes called "thyroid resistance". This resistance impacts other hormone receptors like insulin, progesterone, estrogens and testosterone, requiring more hormones to create a normal effect. The connection between elevated cortisol and insulin resistance is yet another cause of weight gain. Stress clearly creates a vicious cycle!

To help balance cortisol levels and nurture your overworked adrenals, avoid stimulants, alcohol, refined sugars, carbohydrates, processed and fried foods. Eat smaller portions more frequently. Include lean, hormone free meats and dairy, vegetables, legumes, high-fiber grains, leafy greens and fresh fruit. Drink plenty of pure, fresh water every day to help flush toxins from the body. Utilize supplements and herbs to nurture the adrenal glands. And, take time each day to rest, restore, reevaluate and reinvent yourself for the next chapter of life.

While eating well and getting plenty of exercise are essential for good health, consider reducing stress and learning effective stress management techniques an important part of your weight loss program. Journaling, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, self-hypnosis, guided imagery, breathing exercising and listening to soothing music are just some of the ways to support healthy weight loss through relaxation. It's also important to take time to address unresolved emotional stressors like conflicts at work and in relationships, feelings of guilt and unhealed wounds from the past.

For midlife women, losing those extra pounds means much more than looking better. Other benefits include more energy, better sleep and a reduced risk of hormone related conditions like elevated cholesterol, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Obesity in midlife is also associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease. Maintaining a healthy weight will add years to your life and enhance the quality of each and every day. You deserve it and you can do it!

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