Stress: The Barrier Between You and Weight Loss

Don’t let unnecessary stressors keep you from long-term weight loss after Lap Band, gastric bypass, or sleeve gastrectomy

Beating stress after Lap Band, gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy in Naples or Ft. Myers

While most bariatric surgery patients will undoubtedly experience renewed enthusiasm of healthy life via weight loss and disease reversal following surgery, some of us are bound to get stuck. Despite your dedication to a daily exercise routine and healthy eating, at times you may feel like you’ve hit a plateau where weight loss is concerned. Most people aren’t aware that weight gain and stubborn weight loss after surgery are symptoms of something deeper under the curves of the body and stem from a simple mind-body miscommunication.

The Science of Stress and Weight Gain

I’m talking about something we all experience and oftentimes cannot avoid, the one thing that has the power to wreck our weight loss efforts if we don’t defend our bodies against its unrelenting power—stress. Though stress is considered a natural occurrence for everyday life, it’s the unfortunate way we handle stress that tends to predict the more unfortunate health outcomes we sometimes experience.

Research suggests that the more you engage your parasympathetic nervous system the healthier you will be, as this encourages the body to effectively rest and digest. On the other hand, constantly engaging the sympathetic nervous system will leave you in a perpetual state of heightened stress. In order to harmonize your body and de-stress, you need to make sufficient time for renewal and repair.

Stress Negatively Impacts the Metabolism

Lap Band, gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy surgery patients must first understand how stress acts as a barrier between themselves and long-term weight loss results.

  • Stress will shut down your digestive tract. When you’re under added stress, your body tends to shift into survival mode and copes by shutting down your digestive system. When this happens, your body exhibits a shortage of necessary bacteria, enzymes and acids required for adequate digestion, absorption and metabolism. As a result, if your body does not receive the nutrition it needs to function efficiently, you’re more likely to remain hungry and reach for excess food to satisfy your cravings.
  • Stress increases cortisol levels in the body. Commonly referred to as the body’s dominant stress hormone, heightened levels of cortisol are attributed to the body’s inability to properly regulate the sympathetic nervous system thanks to added stress. In addition to disengaging your brain circuitry, cortisol increases insulin which can inhibit weight loss and increase belly fat. An unfortunate increase in cortisol dampens your ability to receive satisfaction from food.
  • Stress increases the bad while decreasing the good. When stress has you within its grips, your levels of potentially inflammatory glucose, insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides increase. As if this isn’t enough of a weight loss setback, the added stress also decreases the valuable hormones that are necessary for weight loss and lean body mass such as the human growth hormone and thyroid hormone.

How to Reduce Stress to Enhance Weight Loss

If you find yourself consistently tired, in a permanent brain funk, excessively anxious, depressed or unable to get your blood sugars down, this may be a sign you’re suffering from too much stress. Because this can potentially lead to weight gain and ultimately prevent weight loss after bariatric surgery, take a minute to analyze your eating patterns and determine if most of the time you spend eating is also the time in which you’re under the most stress. Eating under stressful conditions will do your waistline no good, so it’s wise to redefine your approach with food to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Here are some guidelines for stress-free eating:

  • Begin each meal with three very deep breaths to calm your mind and relax your body. Eating under a relaxed, stress-free state will help your body properly digest and react to the foods you consume in a way that will hopefully allow you to register immediately some of the subtle cues that indicate you are full.
  • Take a moment to really observe your thoughts about yourself and the food you are about to eat. Remind yourself that the foods you eat serve a purpose in leading you to a healthier, happier and fitter life. When you consume foods recommended by your bariatric surgeon under the optimal state of digestion and absorption (aka stress-free), your body will be able to properly metabolize and use all of the essential healthy nutrients you consume. This will allow you to get the appropriate nutrition from a smaller quantity of food.
  • Practice eating in a mindful manner. When you consume food, engage your body and mind so you’re able to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of what you’re eating. In other words, to practice mindful eating you must savor the flavors of the food, observe the current state of your body, eat without any distractions and resist the urge to engage in negative talk so you can eat with compassion, respect and gratitude toward your body.

Unfortunately, weight loss enthusiasts have our fast-paced culture to thank for ubiquitous emotional eating. Such culture does little to honor quality over quantity, nourishment over pleasure and humanity over the dollar. It’s hard to separate thought from food—especially when stress is ever present in our daily lives. It’s important as a bariatric patient to take the time to redefine the way you eat when under unavoidable stress. It is only then will you’ll be able to conquer stubborn weight loss while avoiding unnecessary weight gain.