If you are struggling to lose weight, eat foods that manage stress to overcome weight loss resistance. To move the needle on the scale, understand that the old calories-in/calories-out model doesn’t tell the whole truth.   Several other things can affect fat loss. It’s no longer just about dieting and calories. It’s about the quality of food you are eating.

If you are struggling with an inability to lose the expected 1 to 2 pounds of fat a week, there are some things you need to know.  Your lifestyle and eating habits could be keeping you from making the progress you would like.

Let’s start with stress.  The fight or flight response is an innate response which is hardwired to help you survive.  This response can help you get out of the way of an oncoming car when it is headed right at you. But when you are “on” all the time stress becomes more chronic.

When it does; cortisol, the stress hormone, can get out of whack. High circulating levels of cortisol break down muscle and increase fat storage, especially in the belly area. On the other hand, low cortisol levels cause us to feel completely exhausted and emotionally wrung out.  In the modern world we live with constant noise, light and pressure, it’s difficult to have balanced cortisol levels.

Certain foods don’t manage stress

You will also notice when you are stressed you crave the wrong foods.  Foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt. This can make a bad situation even worse. Blood sugar fluctuations from high sugar foods further increase cortisol. To help you manage your blood sugar levels, eat a breakfast with protein within an hour of rising, try to incorporate protein in all your meals and avoid more than a 4-5 hour gap between meals and snacks.

Too much cortisol in the blood also causes your blood fats and blood pressure to increase . This puts you at risk of heart disease. Choosing foods that contain poor quality fat and/or salty foods is completely the wrong choice but our brains move us toward those foods when we are stressed.

Other foods manage stress

There are some great foods which can help to blunt the stress response.  Whole grains, for example help to increase serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter.  Fatty fish is another great stress buster because it is chock full of omega 3 fatty acids. These healthy fats decrease the inflammation accompanied by stress which can help with mood.

Avocados are a great source of potassium which helps to control blood pressure.  Other good foods that you should turn to when stressed include green leafy vegetables for the magnesium, good sources of vitamin C like citrus fruit, strawberries, peppers and tomatoes, as well as nuts for the B complex vitamins and believe it or not—dark chocolate.

Of course when it comes to dark chocolate it’s all about being conscious of portion size.  So a piece will do instead of a bar!  But seriously, dark chocolate can help to manage your cortisol levels and your insulin levels so it’s a two for one!  If you pick dark chocolate at 85% or higher, the richness of the flavor will help you to manage your portion.  Plus, be mindful to take the time to savor that piece of deliciousness.

Lifestyle is important too

Make it a high priority to manage your stress more effectively — whether it’s through yoga, reiki, meditation, prayer, or just spending time with a pet or someone you love — whatever works best for you is the right choice.

Make it easier on yourself by managing your stress with the right foods and lifestyle choices.  And don’t fret about it.  That’s stressful!