This is the No. 1 thing I hear from my clients as a nutrition coach. You might think it'd be something about diet or exercise, and while I hear about those too, nothing rings louder than the "I'm stressed out of my mind" plea from the men and women I work with.
Whether it's the mom with four kids trying to remember to eat because she can't keep track of much else outside of the extracurricular activity schedule, or the overworked husband who can't seem to turn his brain off even after his 12+ hour days, or the twenty-something female struggling with her weight because school, friends, moms bad relationship with body image and her own struggles with disordered eating seem to take more energy than she has to give...the stories go on. But the story I want to talk about today is yours.
Are you stressed?
Let me rephrase. Are you struggling to lose weight even though you're trying to make strides in the kitchen or the gym? Do you find yourself eating emotionally whenever a particular event or interaction occurs, despite your best efforts? How about your self-care, does it exist? Do you battle with losing (and finding) the same 10 pounds over and over again?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, it's safe to say you're overstressed. But, I probably could've guessed that. Because we're all stressed, overworked and overly busy, right? I mean, it's even a cliche to say we're busy because everyone's busy. I don't know what the heck that's all about.
Let's talk about why your stress is keeping you from your weight loss goals.
When stress is chronically high your body pumps cortisol and adrenaline like a well-oiled machine. When this happens, your "non-critical" functions like digestion, metabolism, immune function and reproduction are inhibited. The result of all of this chronic stress is hormonal havoc, reproductive dysfunction, muscle loss, fat gain and chronic fatigue. GAHHH! But that's the opposite of what I want, right!?
Right. Less stress = more weight loss. But don't give up just yet. Because research shows us that even if you are currently under a lot of stress, there's still hope. People who are able to reduce stress while losing weight have better weight loss. In the big picture of weight loss we often talk about calories burned and calories eaten but we're missing one crucial component. It appears as though reducing stress may be just as important as reducing calories.
Diet + Exercise + Stress management and Self care = Fat loss
Okay. So, you're stressed. And reading this is making you more stressed because now you're stressed about your stress. Breathe deep my friends. Help is on the way.
If good health and weight loss is the goal, aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep (more if you’re working out regularly) and make relaxation techniques a part of your day.
No, this is not the part where I tell you that you need to buy a yoga mat or start taking Tai-Chi, because there's even better news ahead - the activity you choose doesn’t matter. Say whaaaa?? It's true. The only thing that matters is the state you achieve by doing the activity. For example, one person might be able to achieve a relaxed, parasympathetic state while practicing yoga. Me on the other hand, I use that 90 minutes to think about everything I need to do, everything I haven't done and...did I remember to turn the Crock-Pot on this morning!? Clearly, yoga isn't my activity. But again, it’s all about the state, not the activity.
Think about exploring activities that can help you get 30 minutes of quiet, restful, worry-free parasympathetic activity each day. Performing these activities regularly is the best way to get control of your stress. But just like with anything, it's not simply going to happen. You won't magically find the time, but rather, you'll need to invest the time to reap the rewards.
Rest and recovery are as important as what you’re doing in the gym and what you’re doing in the kitchen. Because they aren't as segmented as we like to think. If you're stressed and unrested, do you feel like going to the gym? And if you do happen to drag yourself to the gym are you going to get a lot out of that workout? Likewise, if you're overworked and stretched thin are you going to have the mental or physical capacity to make the healthy choice over the teasing temptation? Obviously, the answer to all of these is no.
So do yourself a favor and start taking care of your whole self. You know, your brain AND your body. Then, and only then, will you find the results you're looking for.
As always, if you need some help with this, I have recently opened up three coaching spots. This time of year can be e x t r a stressful so don't let self care fall by the wayside. Manage your stress and work toward that sexy body with the help of a coach who can see you through to your goals!
Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.