Life is full of stress. There’s the small stuff, like the traffic jam that made you late for work – again – to the bigger concerns, like health and financial problems. Constant stress produces an overabundance of the hormone cortisol, which, among other things, suppresses the digestive system, increases appetite, and makes it harder to say no to high-fat/high-sugar foods.

Yet if stress makes it easier for us to put on weight, relaxing makes it easier for us to take it off. In one study published in the International Journal of Obesity, those who reported the less stress and got more than six (but less than eight) hours of sleep a night were more likely to lose 10 pounds than others. When stress strikes, how can you learn to relax and stick with your weight loss plan? Here, just in time for National Relaxation Day on August 15, are some tips:

  1. Meditate. In one study out of UCLA, caretakers of patients with dementia were asked to partake in a chanting yogic mediation 12 minutes a day for a total of eight weeks. At the end of the study period, 65 percent of those in the yogic mediation group showed a 50 percent improvement on a depression rating scale and 52 percent showed a 50 percent improvement on a mental health score. Those in a relaxation group showed improvement, but not as dramatic as the yogic meditation group.
  2. Stretch. In another study, those using exercises to stretch four muscle groups reported less sadness and muscle tension than those who used a tense-and-release method of relaxation. For some great stretching ideas, check out our “Stretching for Stress Reduction” handout on our Signature Patient Website.
  3. Try yoga. Yoga has a number of pluses: It strengthens your core, teaches you to be mindful, and – yes – encourages weight loss. A study published in journal Qualitative Health Research found that getting in the practice of doing yoga at home can reduce women’s bingeing in just 12 weeks. Another study looking at overweight adults in their 50s found that those who did yoga once a week for at least four years lost an average of five pounds. The control group who did not practice yoga gained an average of 13.5 pounds. For more information about yoga, look for “Intro to Yoga” under the resource section on our Signature Patient Website.


This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of the subject matter nor a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your primary care physician or healthcare provider before beginning any diet or exercise program.