Stress Management for a Healthy Lifestyle


We are on day 3 of the DietBet I am hosting. I am so exited that over 30 people joined, making the pot $875! I know that I have been very aware of what I have been putting in my mouth. I usually eat healthy, but totally admit to shoving a piece of bread with peanut butter into my mouth as I race around trying to get the kids where they need to be and calling that lunch. I really need to work on sitting down to a real meal for lunch that includes other food groups. I somehow fell out of this habit so plan on working on this.


Today we’re talking about stress. Yes, it’s totally related to weight and health!

I’ll start with a story from my morning yesterday.

I drop off my son at school, run a couple errands with the other two kids and by 10:30am we are on our third stop…the commissary. Sooo many places I’d rather be than grocery shopping with a 4 year old and 14 month old. We load up the cart pretty quickly, get to the check out line where they ask for my military id (a requirement when shopping at the commissary). I search everywhere and can’t find it. I know I just had it to get on post so it must be in the car. Meanwhile baby R is super fussy, he won’t stop whining, my daughter is trying to unload all the groceries on the cart because she doesn’t get that WE CAN’T CHECK OUT without an ID. I look down and baby R has managed to lose a shoe and sock and it’s 30 degrees out and I REALLY DON’T WANT TO GO LOOK FOR THAT ID. Why can’t the lady just let it go this once I think to myself? She tells me to take my time. Great, thanks. Baby R is about to jump out of the cart and I consider just leaving and going home….but no, I need half the stuff for dinner so I decide to go look for my ID in my car. Of course I didn’t park close. Have I mentioned I am tired and hungry and I have to pee? Pretty much the worse combo.

Baby R is still trying to squirm his way out of my arms and he’s not quite ready to walk around parking lots by himself so I literally use all my force to keep him from falling. When I get to the car he is very unhappy so I put him in the back seat with my daughter. I waste the next 10 minutes looking for my darn ID and finally find it crammed between the front seats. Thanks God. Carry kids back inside only to find the line has tripled. Ugh, the worst. I finally get through check-out and baby R is squawking like some bird…I have never heard him do this. He is totally over this shopping trip. Hungry, tired? Yes and yes. My daughter is being sweet and tries to entertain him which involves jumping up and down and screaming “RAWR” as if roaring like a lion will help the situation. We get through the line. Feeling the stress, I can’t handle the noise of the kids anymore so as soon as I get one foot out of the store I rip open the crackers I bought and shove a couple in both kid’s hands so I can walk to the car in SILENCE. A stressful morning for me. Yes. Serious stress? No, but still stress to my body.


What are the types of stress?

Stress is a normal part of life. It comes from many sources but how you handle it can impact your physical and mental well-being. Stress can interfere with weight loss and can also be detrimental to your health. There are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stress is the kind that resolves quickly such as taking your kid’s grocery shopping. Chronic stress can be something that lasts much longer like coping with a ill family member. You will want to develop relaxation and stress management tools to deal with both.


How does stress affect body weight?

Stress, both mental and emotional, can affect your physical weight. It can interfere with your choices that have a huge impact on your weight such as what you chose to eat (a lot of people crave high calorie, high fat foods when stressed) and whether or not to exercise. Stress also causes hormonal and metabolic changes that can influence where and how fat is stored in the body. I am sure you have heard of the stress hormone cortisol, which is a hormone elevated when stressed. Chronically high levels of cortisol can contribute to gaining fat. The fat builds up inside the body, around blood vessels and the abdomen which can put you at risk for heart disease. In addition to this, prolonged acute stress can cause high blood pressure, chronic muscle tension and headaches.

Oahu, Hawaii

How do you manage stress?

Different techniques work for different people! Here are some ideas:

  • yoga
  • mental imagery
  • deep breathing
  • running
  • reading a magazine
  • taking a warm bath
  • getting a massage
  • talking to a friend
  • writing in a journal
  • listening to or looking at the ocean waves
  • meditating
  • go on a relaxing vacation
  • watch the sunset


So whether your stress is minor such as my grocery shopping experience or serious such as losing a job, managing it is key to a healthy lifestyle. How are YOU going to handle it?

P.S. The Hawaii pics are fitting for this post because it was probably the time that I had the least amount of stress in my life. Low key lifestyle, laid back people, gorgeous beaches and sparkling water to look at everyday. I hope these pictures convey the message of relaxation to you!

Questions: How do you cope with stress? Does it negatively affect your eating? What do you crave when stressed? What can you do to improve the way you handle stress?


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    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks for your comment Dawn. Hope your stress improves. A little is ok, but you know when it gets to be too much. :) Have a good rest of the week!

  1. says

    First of all, I think all your photos just decreased my stress levels by 100%. This is a very timely post for me as I too have been feeling very stressed lately and I do notice that I “self-medicate” with food – both for me and the kids (oh to be able to walk a few feet in silence!!). Yoga and exercise has always been my stress relief.
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    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks Christine. When I look at water (or pictures of water) it just instantly soothes me. Yes, if I don’t exercise during stressful times I get even MORE stressed! Not good!:)

  2. says

    I agree with Christine. As I was reading your post, thinking about my own stress (usually mostly job related, now adding to that with dealing with my aunt’s health), your beautiful pictures soothed me. And also made me wonder, which island? Some reminded me of Kauai, my favorite island.

    Stress was the main reason I got back into yoga last year. I also love massage, for many reasons, not just stress. I would love to add meditation because I think it would be very helpful.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..Here’s the Scoop: Tough Weekend in San DiegoMy Profile

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks for your comment Debbie. These pics are from Oahu- we lived there for 2 years. I don’t think I could pick a favorite island honestly they are all so fabulous. Hope your stress decreases soon and glad the pics helped a little. 😉

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks so much Maria! What rotation are you in now? I remember those stressful days. :) I am sure the time will fly by for you!

  3. says

    I know stress can be very healthy but holy moly am I stressed out hard core right now! I need to take a break from work and the computer and everything else but I just can’t because I have so much to do – or so I think! Gah! My mind is going a mile a minute!! LOL… I just don’t know how to push the STOP BUTTON on this day!
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    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Oh no! Breath, scream, dance, laugh! Ok, get some rest and start fresh tomorrow. :) Hopefully the stress will go away soon!

  4. says

    Thanks for the pix, reminded me of my old home on Oahu. Am now retired and kicking around in the Philippines. Retirement removed a huge amount of stress from my life. It altered my daily habits – how and what I ate, it did a lot of good things for my blood pressure and blood sugar. Removing stress was certainly a key part to my plan for healthy living.
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