You may be eating well, exercising regularly and still not seeing the result you want. How frustrating is that! You may even be gaining weight around your mid-section despite all of your efforts. This one reason why may be something you might not even thought of and something you may be dealing with everyday.
So how does stress affect your body and your weight loss?
When you are stressed your body produces a hormone known as cortisol as stress is seen as a threat and automatically your body goes into fight or flight mode which is responsible for the increased levels of cortisol. Now let me tell you something about cortisol, it is not your friend, especially if your goal is weight loss and especially if your goals is to specifically lose stomach bulge. Increased cortisol levels encourages your body to store more fat and especially around the stomach area.
Have you ever noticed during a stressful period you tend to put on weight around your stomach? or you may lose weight because you are a stress "non-eater" but you may still have more stomach bulge or bloating than usual. This is cortisol doing it's job. You might also be surprised at some of the other effects stress can actually have on your body including effecting the way that you eat and the foods you choose to eat. Depending on the type of stress of course will depend on how severe your reaction will be. There are two main types of stress;
Acute; which is stress that you are fully aware of. It might be the result of a recent event such as a loss of a family member, divorce or a deadline at work.
Chronic (or underlying); which is stress that you may not even be aware you have due to being so used to functioning on this level for so long. This could be things like regular lack of sleep, ongoing pressure at work or overworked, overtraining, no down time or a highly strung personality.
Now our bodies are made to deal with a small amount of stress and we can usually bounce back quite easily once the stress is no longer present. The problem lies when your stress is chronic and ongoing underlying stress. Our bodies are not made to deal with stress for a long period of time and this is evident when things start to break down such as being run down all the time, regular colds and flu, weight gain around the stomach area and trouble with weight loss even with regular exercise and eating right just to name a few. Eventually leading to more serious health issues if the the stress is prolonged.
As long as you are stressed your body will not function properly and one of those functions includes burning fat. You will find it a lot harder to lose weight during this time. As most of my clients know or have experienced while training with me is when they are going through a highly stressful time I really reduce their training load, session frequencies and even change the type of training they are doing until they are no longer stressed and can handle harder training again.
Exercising is an amazing way to help deal with stress and is the number one thing that will help lift your spirit and clear your head but you also don't want to overload the body by doing a smash sesh,overloading the body with even more stress. Remember exercising hard is also a form of stress. Weight & resistance training causes small micro tears in your muscles which the body then repairs and rebuilds from. If your body is already dealing with some form of stress it can then go into overload with too much to deal with.
I want to share one of my more recent experiences with a stressful period in my life and how sometimes you may not feel stressed but your body gives you all the symptoms to tell you otherwise. During the last 4 months of last year my business really went to the next level and quickly. It was the busiest I had ever been before in my career. Of course I wasn't complaining, I had worked very hard all year to get my business to this level and finally all my work was coming into fruition, BUT and there is a big but it also brought on another level of stress, pressure and exhaustion for me. At that time I was also running another business which was also taking up a lot of my time. I was also in desperate need of a break after working ALL year including all public holidays. It was what I had to do to make sure I survived and stayed afloat, which sometimes in our lives it is crucial.
Now with the influx of new clients it had me doing days that started at 4:45am right through to 8pm and then working on my other business any break during the day I had. I don't know whether you have ever experienced this but there is something to be said about the difference between waking up in the 4am's compared to waking up in the 6am's. You just can't compare. When you are waking up that early it really affects the way you function and really takes you to a new level of feeling tired.
The very early mornings were causing me stress, the extra workload was causing me stress and by the end of the week I would feel unmotivated and need some form of release from all the pressure that had built up over the year. Towards the last month before my holiday I was drinking more wine then I really ever have before which was providing some relaxation for me (mind you it was 1-2 glasses on a Friday and Saturday night) but for me that's a lot and not really a regular thing. I also craved higher carb meals. All of these things together had me holding more weight than I was accustomed to holding specifically around my mid-section. The funny thing is that I didn't realise the extent of it until this year.
This year my earliest rise is at 6am and I'm a completely different person. I'm motivated, making fabulous food choices, don't need a nanna nap in the middle of the day, no longer feel stressed at all and can handle small stressors much better without wine (LOL), the weight has dropped off me and I have become much leaner than I have been since the beginning of last year with very little extra effort.
The underlying stress here was the lack of sleep and of course the startup business stress. When you have a lack of sleep or an early get up time you stress about the fact that you have to get up so early and when you can't get to sleep early enough you stress that you can't get to sleep. Even the smallest things cause you stress as you can't handle stress as well as normal.
Think about what stressors you have in your life that may be preventing you from achieving your body goals.
- Are you stressing about not losing weight quick enough? (common one)
- Are you stressing about workload?
- Are you stressing about a situation in your workplace or your personal life?
- Are you constantly functioning from a place of lack of sleep, lack of proper food, overtraining, overdoing and overthinking?
Now the easiest thing to do is obviously eliminate the stressors but sometimes it is just not doable. You could work a stressful job, your job could require you to get up early, you could be a new mum, you could be a start up entrepreneur and your business requires you to put in hours to survive. So in these cases you need to reduce stress and look for ways to release stress without turning to food.
The things that I like to do personally to help eliminate stress is go for long walks outside in the fresh air with my favourite music or an interesting self development audio .........
Also taking a nap was my saviour. When you feel tired have a nap for 20 minutes or 50 minutes (these times are important) these are the best nap times, trust me if you sleep any longer you will feel worse than you did before your nap so cap and set our alarm for either of these times. Once you've had your nap I found this to be a good time to train. Make your training not too high in intensity, you want to train for energy rather than deplete it during a stressful time.
Most stress is hopefully only short lived but we all live with an element of underlying stress so it's important to learn what works for you and how to manage it, eliminating things and people that cause you stress until you feel better.