This module we cover Stress Management, identifying some of the factors that are causing your
clients weight issues and how to assist them to overcome them.
Weight Loss through Stress and Anxiety Management
That’s right – lose the stress lose the weight!!
In today’s fast paced society we are constantly on a tight schedule, tight budget and even tight cloths. Our muscles are tight, and the lack of relaxation in our lives causes stress and anxiety and even weight gain. We look for the quick fix to feel good – and all too often that comes in the form of a chocolate bar, packet of chips or numerous other feel good foods. The clever marketing and information supplied to us from the fast food giants has us believing that having that next food fix will make us feel better!! No it will just have our cloths feeling that bit tighter – our weight gain continuing and that gives us something else to stress and feel anxious about how we look and feel about ourselves – and so the vicious cycle of Stress, Anxiety and Weight Management continues.
Managing our stress within our busy lifestyles is not easy and understanding how the stress and anxiety affects our overall health, wellbeing and our weight is essential to come to terms with needing to deal with this in order to move forward to achieving our weight loss goals.
Cause and Effects of Stress
Understanding the cause and effects of stress has on the human body is important. As first described by Walter Bradford Cannon, the fight or flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived danger such as life threatening event or attack. His theory states that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system priming us for fighting or fleeing from the danger. More specifically the adrenal medulla produces a hormone that results in the secretion of catecholamine’s, especially norepinephrine and epinephrine. Amit Sood, Professor of Medicine discusses the classic fight or flight response and states that estrogen and testosterone are also hormone’s that affect how we react to stress, as are the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
The bodies response to these hormones is what causes us to build tension and prepare for either fight or flight.
Physiology of the flight or fight response.
Autonomic nervous system this system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response and its role is mediated by two different components. The autonomic system as its name suggests works largely unconsciously. Some of its main functions are regulation of the heart rate, respiratory rate and digestion.
1/Sympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system originates in the spinal cord and its main function is to activate the
physiological changes that occur during the fight or flight response. This component of the autonomic nervous system utilizes and activates the release of norepinephrine in the reaction.
2/Parasympathetic nervous system
The parasympathetic nervous system originates in the spinal cord and medulla and works in concert
with the sympathetic nervous system. Its main function is to activate the “rest and digest” response
and return the body to homeostasis after the fight or flight response. This system utilizes and
activates the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine
How our bodies react during fight and flight response.
The reaction begins in the amygdala, which triggers a neural response in the hypothalamus.
The initial reaction is followed by activation of the pituitary gland and secretion of the hormone ACTH. The adrenal gland is activated almost simultaneously and releases the neurotransmitter epinephrine. The release of chemical messengers results in the production of the hormone cortisol, which increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and suppresses the immune system. The initial response and subsequent reactions are triggered in an effort to create a boost of energy. This boost of energy is activated by epinephrine binding to liver cells and the subsequent production of glucose. Additionally, the circulation of cortisol functions to turn fatty acids into available energy, which prepares muscles throughout the body for response. Catecholamine hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine) or noradrenaline (norepinephrine), facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action. These include the
- Acceleration of heart and lung action
- Paling or flushing, or alternating between both
- Inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action to the point where digestion slows down or stops
- General effect on the sphincters of the body
- Constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
- Liberation of metabolic energy sources (particularly fat and glycogen) for muscular action
- Dilation of blood vessels for
- Inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production) and salivation
- Dilation of pupil (mydriasis)
- Relaxation of bladder
- Inhibition of erection
- Auditory exclusion (loss of hearing)
- Tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision)
- Disinhibition of spinal reflexes
Function of physiological changes
The physiological changes that occur during the fight or flight response are activated in order to give the body increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running. Some of the specific
physiological changes and their functions include:
- Increased blood flow to the muscles activated by diverting blood flow from other parts of the body.
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugars, and fats in order to supply the body with extra energy.
- The blood clotting function of the body speeds up in order to prevent excessive blood loss in the event of an injury sustained during the response.
- Increased muscle tension in order to provide the body with extra speed and strength.
Recognizing Stress Signals
Being able to recognize the signs of stress early, starts with good awareness about our body as a whole. Symptoms we get are an early warning sign that something is wrong. Ignoring these can lead to much more serious conditions. In our work as Holistic Weight Loss Coaches many of these symptoms will be present in your clients – much of the excessive weight the clients are carrying can certainly be attributed to stress.
Coping with Stress
The Relaxation Response
Fortunately whilst Walter Bradford Cannon first described the flight or fight response – attributed to stress another Doctor – Dr Herbert Benson was responsible for creating the Relaxation Response. Dr. Benson is a pioneer in mind/body medicine, as well as in bringing spirituality and healing into medicine. Through his 35+ year career, he defined the relaxation response and continues to lead teaching and research into its efficacy in counteracting the harmful effects of stress. The recipient of numerous national and international awards, Dr. Benson lectures widely about mind/body medicine and the M/BMI’s work. His expertise is frequently sought by national and international news media, and he appears in scores of newspapers, magazines, and television programs each year.
“The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress… and the opposite of the fight or flight response” Dr Benson quotes. The Relaxation Response is a helpful way to turn off the Fight or Flight response and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. The body returns to a state of physiological relaxation where heart rate, digestive functional, blood pressure, and hormonal levels return to their normal state.
Steps to Elicit the Relaxation Response
The following is the technique reprinted with permission from Dr. Herbert Benson’s book
The Relaxation Response pages 162-163
1. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Deeply relax all your muscles,
beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face.
Keep them relaxed.
4. Breathe through your nose.
Become aware of your breathing.
As you breathe out, say the word, “one”*,
silently to yourself. For example,
breathe in … out, “one”,- in .. out, “one”, etc.
Breathe easily and naturally.
5. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
Do not stand up for a few minutes.
6. Do not worry about whether you are successful
in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
When distracting thoughts occur,
try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating “one.”
With practice, the response should come with little effort.
Practice the technique once or twice daily,
but not within two hours after any meal,
since the digestive processes seem to interfere with
the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.
* It is better to use a soothing, mellifluous sound, preferably with no meaning
or association, to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts – a mantra.
Relax – help is available to get of this roller coast and it is available to everyone and can be very low cost or for the very disciplined cost nothing other than your time. The answer is in changing our Mindset, moving our focus from the constant tight deadlines we create and incorporating a specific time for reflection and inspiration every day. Meditation for Weight Loss – the great benefit is that this form of self-nurturing will also help alleviate and control the stress and anxiety that our tight time frames have created. Whilst loosening the belt on all aspects of our life the journey assists us in gaining personal inner strength with that comes a new perspective on life’s other challenges. Meditation for Weight Loss will be covered in a later Module.
*As a note becoming a Meditation Teacher and being able to offer Meditation for Weight Loss sessions may be something that you would like to add to your practice to further support your clients. Natura Institute offers Meditation Teacher training.
Stress Management Journal
This tool is to help your client identify the triggers that start their own fight or flight response.
Instructions: Carry the page and a pen with you. When you notice any of the listed symptoms of stress, record the situation.
At the end of the week review all pages and look for reoccurring or similar situations to establish your stress triggers.
Place a cross (X) next to each statement that applies to you..
Total number of checks
If your total number of checks is 7 or less you may not be doing all you can to reduce or manage the stress in your life. Review the list and identify one or two that you can address each week to help improve your health at this very stressful time in your life.
Module 5 Assignment
1/ Write a 500 – 600 word article on how you would describe the Flight-Fight response and why it’s important for our clients to learn the relaxation response to stimulus. Give an overview how this relates to our clients wishing to lose weight.