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Why stress management might be more important than calorie-counting

My work as a marriage and family therapist in Scottsdale, Arizona helps to  instill hope and change through the use of techniques including: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Parenting Skills Training, and Brief Solution focused therapy. I u...

If you want to lose weight – start by managing your stress

Spring has sprung, and swimsuit season is upon us shortly. Many people take this time to change their lifestyle and exercise more, attempting to better their eating habits to speed up weight loss in hopes of fitting into their summer clothes or maybe for better health.

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How often do you find yourself wanting to lose weight and go on the next fad diet, eating healthier foods to cut calories and meet your goal weight? I’m guessing most people struggle quite a bit with weight loss and maintenance, because there are new diets and tricks everywhere we look.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The percent of adults age 20 years and over who are obese is 35.1%." This fact is startling, especially when we add this observation from a WebMD article on weight gain and stress: "While the immediate response to acute stress can be a temporary loss of appetite, more and more we are coming to recognize that for some people, chronic stress can be tied to an increase in appetite and stress-induced weight gain," says Elissa Epel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco.

What does this mean for you? Well, the article also tells us, “If you find yourself chronically stressed out, the experts say, you should do what you can to decrease your stress levels, then follow a reduced-calorie yet balanced diet to stop the weight gain and lose the extra pounds.” So, it seems that weight loss begins with stress management. Let’s look at some great ideas to help you on your journey toward a healthy lifestyle and weight loss.

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Overeating might occur during stressful times, or someone may eat less due to stress. It just depends on you and your habits. Therapeutically, the use of individual counseling might benefit someone who wishes to lose weight, as reducing stress, anxiety or depression might be a key factor in successful lifestyle changes. Learning to replace overeating or binge eating with coping tools or emotional management skills would be helpful for long-term weight loss — or any lifestyle change.

Emotion-management skills or mindfulness training would work really well in achieving this goal. If you feel that just weight management and exercise aren't producing changes, it might make sense to look at your mental health. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is useful in learning how to change negative thinking patterns that might prevent some old ways from changing. Finding a therapist or psychologist who works with CBT would be a great tip and increase positive mental health.

A trained professional can help you see the relationship between stress and your health. It is important to find the resources to increase your knowledge and insight on stress and mental health. The National Institutes of Health can help.

Weight loss can be a challenging process for those who find emotional eating comforting. Many people want to reach for food to help them feel better or self-soothe. Learning new habits and techniques can help you to reach your weight-loss goals and allow you to feel healthier. Stress can be overcome with management tools, so you can achieve a healthy weight as well as good mental health.

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