Some women think that, as we get older, it is more difficult to fight against weight gain. But excess weight is not inevitable. Stress, whose effect on weight has been clinically proven, is a factor that we can work upon in order
to avoid those extra pounds.
The correlation between stress and weight gain
It is a well-known fact that stress has a negative impact on the body. However, weight gain is not always recognised as one of these effects. The hormone cortisol is the main reason for this correlation. Secreted during moments of anxiety, this hormone can increase the appetite and provoke a craving for fatty and sweet foods. It is a compensation mechanism: we eat to make ourselves feel better. Overweight people have a very high level of cortisone in their body.
Stress also fatigues the body, which must then draw from its energy stores in order to deal with the increased heart rate. This fatigue can intensify the aforementioned compensation mechanism.
By contrast, a relaxed person is better able to control their weight. Their heart rate is lower, which enables them to save en- ergy. Their cortisone secretions are also lower, which decreases the appetite and limits snacking between meals. More generally, reducing stress leads to a more balanced body.
The solution: sport and yoga
Physical activity is naturally the best solution for avoiding excess weight gain, not only due to the physical effort involved but also because it relieves tension.
Cardio workouts (cycling, step, running, swimming, fast walking, dancing) makes us sweat and burn calories, but also strengthens the heart muscle and helps us to relax by secreting endorphins, the happiness hormone.
In addition to regular physical activity, I strongly recommend doing yoga, which combats stress in various different ways. The positions boost blood flow, bringing more oxygen to the vital organs and helping the body’s flow of energy.
Then there is the impact of breathing, which is a primordial element of yoga. Breathing is life. It enables you to refocus, manage your stress, slow your heart rate and relax your mind. Yoga’s final phase is relaxation, which leads to meditation. We let everything go, the body and mind relax, which enables the parasympathetic nervous system to take over and brings calm to the body. When this happens, cell exchange is made easier, stress hormone levels are low and the body functions better.
Motivation: a driving factor
The main pitfall that hinders those people who want to take up sport in order to relieve stress and lose weight is a lack of motivation. In order to overcome this, start by setting achievable goals so that you can advance step by step. Savour the progress you have made, however small: visualising how far you have come is the best way to stay motivated. For example, start by aiming to lose 2 kilos, then increasing your flexibility and stamina. To blow away those cobwebs, try to exercise outdoors as much as possible. As well as the added benefits of breathing fresh air, it is also more pleasant than being shut away in a gym.
Finally, do not hesitate to use accessories such as connected wristbands. Worn daily, they set goals using the pedometer, al- low you to check your heart rate in real time and even monitor your sleep quality, which is a very important factor for recovery and can also affect weight gain. Some models, like the Epson Pulsense PS-100, even allow you to manage your stress levels. I always recommend them to my clients, as they provide a daily challenge and lead you to a life with less stress and a balanced body and mind.
Julie Ferrez is France’s go-to expert for fitness and general wellbeing. A former gymnast, vice-champion of France in Aerobics and an experienced sportswoman, in 2004 she became fitness manager at the Ritz at the age of 21, then in 2008 became the official personal trainer of then-pre- sident Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. In 2007, she created her website juliefer- rez.com which enables anyone to follow her methods for staying in shape. Julie also appears on the television programme Télématin, in her own “COACH” segment. She is an ambassador for the Epson Pulsense range of wristbands, and author of four books from Marabout Hachette, including “Le cahier de gym des Paresseuses” (Gym exercises for lazy people).