Nutrition articles by Alyssa Simon, RD

To Lose Weight, Stop and Smell the Flowers

on May 22, 2012

We all have busy lives with hectic schedules and deadlines. We’re stressed and at the end of the day, we’d rather reward ourselves with the television than the treadmill. We put our work and family first, and we gain weight. We put ourselves first, and we feel selfish.

As a college student, my semesters are filled with long days, late nights, and constant pressure and stress. When the semester first begins, I’m always prepared to exercise at least 4 days a week, and this usually succeeds until the work load piles in. By the end of the semester, I’m exhausted, burnt out, the gym has become a distant memory, and some how I’ve gained 5 pounds.

When I gain weight, I usually end up hitting rock bottom before I decide to make a change. I always find myself wishing there was a quick fix, even though I know there is not. Many of us are beginning to realize that quick fixes don’t work, yet the diet industry still makes $57.9 billion dollars a year (source).

So what does work? Small steps that lead to big changes, and managing your stress.

Stress is a much bigger factor to weight gain than most people realize. This comes from evolutionary factors, when the fight-or-flight response was necessary for survival. When we get stressed, a hormone called coritsol is released which triggers the slowing of your metabolism and digestion, raises your heart pressure and blood sugar, causes cravings for energy-dense foods, and results in fat storage in specific parts of the body, including the abdomen.  Stress can also result in emotional eating and unhealthy dieting, and lack of exercise due to busy schedules (source).

You may have heard aromatherapy, which involves using essential oils from plants to stimulate nerves in the nose. These nerves send impulses to the brain where emotion is controlled, and be calming and relaxing (source ). A 2009 study from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that a floral scented compound called linalool supressed stress-related chemical and gene changes in rats. Linalool is produced from over 200 species of plants such as lavender, basil, oranges, grapes, mangos, and lemons. Inhalation of the scents of certain plants has been practiced since ancient times to not only reduce stress, but also to induce sleep, and fight depression and inflammation (source).

Nature can also prove to be calming and relaxing. Not only can smelling flowers help you relax, but so can simply taking big, deep breaths of clean, fresh air. Take a walk or jog through a park, or listen to the rain or a waterfall. Go stargazing, fishing, or just lay in the grass and watch the clouds. You may be surprised as to how such simple acts can reduce your stress so much!

For other ideas on reducing stress, visit helpguide.org.

6 responses to “To Lose Weight, Stop and Smell the Flowers

  1. Kailey says:

    I find the connection between stress and weight gain so interesting since it is all about hormones – not necessarily the foods you eat (unless your craving some comfort)

  2. teabagginit says:

    i really needed this post – in the middle of finals and needing yoga much more than elliptical! thanks for the reminder!

  3. So true! When I’m super stressed, I gain weight even if my calorie-count is the same. The high levels of cortisol in my body have such a negative effect. Thanks for the reminder to de-stress!

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