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Skip the Snacking: Four Natural Ways to Reduce Stress

A big plate of comfort food may sound like the perfect indulgence at the end of a stressful day, but a new study could change the way you think about emotional eating. Research suggests that stress can lower your metabolism and inhibit your body’s ability to burn calories, which means that deep dish pizza or brownie sundae could really cost you.

The study evaluated 58 women whose ages ranged from 31 to 70. The participants were asked whether they had experienced stress within the past day, such as relationship problems or trouble with work, friends or family. They were then given a 930 calorie meal with 60 grams of fat, similar to the nutritional content of a burger and fries meal from a fast food restaurant. Over the next seven hours, researchers monitored the participants’ metabolic rates as well as their blood sugar, triglycerides, insulin and cortisol.

The results showed that women who had recently experienced stress burned 104 fewer calories over the course of the day when compared to the non-stressed women. They also had lower insulin levels and burned less fat, which suggests that fat was being stored (Source: livescience).

Although 104 calories on occasion will not significantly affect your weight, the study does indicate potential problems for habitual emotional eaters. If dealing with stress causes you to make a beeline for the refrigerator, try some of these natural stress relief methods instead.

Get Some Exercise

Physical activity releases endorphins, those feel-good neurotransmitters that improve your mood. Exercise also serves as a mental distraction from your problems, which can help you clear your mind and gain some perspective. If you need something calm and refreshing, try yoga, tai chi or Pilates. Or, if you want to really sweat it out, try a Zumba class or an outdoor run. Not only will you boost your mood, you’ll boost your metabolism as well!

Sleep On It

Lack of sleep negatively impacts your mood and productivity. It also causes your body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol. Establishing a balanced sleep schedule is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid stress. When your body is well-rested, you will wake up feeling alert, positive and ready to take on the day!

Practice Meditation

If you can’t get stress off the brain, maybe it’s time for a little self-imposed time-out. Meditation can significantly reduce stress and anxiety while improving your overall sense of wellbeing. Find a quiet, secluded spot and focus on deep breathing and positive thinking for 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re unable to stay focused that long, you can always start with 5 to 10 minutes and work your way up.

Eat A Healthy Diet

Unhealthy food contributes to depression and weight gain, both of which can increase stress. Fill your diet with whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and you’re sure to feel positive, energized and less stressed (Source: Fox News).