Maintaining a healthy, lean physique is a pretty popular topic these days; in fact as a nutrition coach I count on it to be. Most people are starting to realize that a healthy body takes more than simply spending hours on the stair climber; it requires a combination of proper nutrition, sufficient activity and reduced stress. If any of these areas are out of whack we can almost guarantee excess body fat, decreased muscle, poor immune system and a lot more. For most people with a little discipline proper nutrition and exercise are achievable; the real challenge comes from reducing stress.
Are you one of the many who can’t seem to get rid of stubborn belly fat or pack on lean muscle? If so, the problem might lay outside of the kitchen or the gym. Excess stress has been shown to increase cortisol, popularly known as the stress hormone. Though some cortisol is necessary for important processes in the body excess cortisol can result in muscle breakdown and fat storage, particularly stored in the belly area. Stress can be caused by a lot of things including lack of sleep, increased workload, family problems, eating excess junk food and other day to day situations. As stress in our life increases these issues start to seem more and more overwhelming thereby increasing our cortisol levels even further. Before we know it we’re burning the candle from both ends. Managing stress is no longer just a luxury for the few; it’s a necessity for the many.
But how can we manage stress with so much going on in life? There might be a simple fix that’s easier than you think. Research suggests that meditating only 15-20 minutes per day can reduce stress and cortisol levels by up to 30% and the benefits don’t just stop there. Meditation has also been shown to improve self-esteem and happiness, support the immune system, improve sleep, reduce junk food cravings, improve the enjoyment of healthy foods, sharpen memory and focus and much more. With better sleep, reduced junk food cravings and increased self-esteem not only are our stress levels lowered but our happiness and sense of well-being also improve. We find enjoyment in the process of becoming healthier and find patience as we do so.
Practicing meditation can seem intimidating for some but is actually much easier than you may think. Simply sitting in a quiet room with your eyes closed focusing on each body part is a method of meditation. Another method might be counting down from 99 with each inhale. Practicing meditation will take patience and discipline but it’s called practicing for a reason; we’re never meant to be perfect at it. There are many styles and methods of meditation but the important thing is to simply find one that works for you and stick to it. There’s a Zen proverb that says, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
By Ricky Goodall, Certified Nutrition Coach