Balance stress levels to shed that COVID “19”
This month I want to talk about something that I am seeing a lot as a dominant patient concern now that we are one year into the pandemic… COVID weight gain.
Some patients are complaining of a few pounds while others are joking that they have gained 19 pounds for COVID-19.
The body is extremely smart, especially when it believes it is in danger. This past year has felt like a threat to most of us. The unknown, the fear, the loneliness, the anxiety… it all takes a toll and sends the body the message that things aren’t safe at the moment. This activates the limbic system in the brain that is responsible for turning our nervous system on to “fight or flight.”
I always use the analogy that your body doesn’t understand the difference between being busy or stressed, versus running away from a bear. That primal response to keep us safe from perceived danger is what our bodies are doing with this stressful year resulting in added weight gain. The body stores fat in the adipose tissue because it is the most easily accessible form of energy when the body needs to kick it into high gear and run away from that bear. The key to losing that “protection” weight is to calm the system and balance the stress hormone-cortisol.
Here are my recommendations to balance stress and in turn help with losing weight:
1) Adaptogens – This magical classification of herbs and mushrooms help the body better adapt and resist stressors. My favourite ones are Reishi Mushroom (tincture or powder that you can add to your coffee or breakfast) to balance, Ashwagandha (powder, tea, capsule) to calm and increase resilience, Rhodiola (powder, capsule) to calm and increase resilience, and Lion’s Mane Mushroom (tincture or powder) to help with mental fog and fatigue.
2) L-theanine – this amino acid helps elicit a feeling of calm and also helps control food cravings! It is usually found in Adrenal gland products to help keep cortisol in check. My favorite product with L-theanine is Adreno Calm by Seroyal.
3) GABA – this is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. This neurotransmitter is responsible for calming the system. It is great for people with anxiety and panic attacks and teaching the body that it is safe.
4) MCT oil – this little secret weapon is an oil that is an efficient fuel source with a low chance of uptake by adipose tissue. This means that it provides energy for the cells without being deposited in the fat tissue. It helps with a negative energy balance by increasing energy expenditure (calorie burn).
5) Move your body – this is an obvious but one that is easy to let slide. Now that it is getting warmer, be sure to get outside not only for your physical benefit but your mental wellbeing as well. The two are so intricately linked that exercise will lead to improved mood which helps with making healthier food choices.
I wish you all a happy and sunny month ahead! Here’s to brighter, happier days!