Spring is upon us. It’s time to dust off winter, take a deep breath, and ready ourselves for a new season. How are your resolutions coming? Have you met any of the goals you set?  If you’re not where you want to be, don’t stress. No, really, don’t stress. Stress is a natural negative reaction in your mind and body to challenges. And while it can positively motivate you to get through certain obstacles, it can also wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.

The term “stress eating”, may feel like an excuse to indulge, but it’s your body’s actual response to anxiety. Stress activates the adrenal glands which then releases cortisol, the hormone that controls appetite, increasing your cravings. If you can get past the situation, the cortisol levels will drop, but if you live in a constant state of stress, the levels will stay elevated. Continuous anxiety will also disrupt sleep and boost your appetite even more.

Studies also show that these reactions to stress increase the amount of high fat and high sugar foods consumed. But the vicious cycle doesn’t stop there. Your brain can associate these foods as comfort under pressure, leading you to crave these foods when faced with a stressful situation. And overeating isn’t the only thing contributing to the growing waistline when stressed. It also interferes with sleep, causes you to exercise less, and drink more alcohol.

Sudden emotional stress like anger can contribute to a heart attack, arrhythmia, or even death if you have heart disease, but many may not know there’s an issue until it’s too late.

You can’t escape stress, but you can change how you deal with it. Next time you’re faced with anxiety, take a deep breath and focus on why you’re actually feeling this way before reaching for the cookies. Take a walk or practice yoga, or any exercise where you can think about the situation and how to handle it without blowing up, figuratively and literally. If you do reach for the cookies, it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up about it because it will only make you feel worse and self-compassion has been shown to decrease emotional eating.

Never forget, you don’t have to be alone on your journey to health and fitness. We want to be your partner, to educate you and train you how to stay on your path to reach your goals. We are here for you.