So you've finally committed to the gym and decided that things are going to be different from now on. You've stripped the pantry of all temptations and filled your diary with exercise classes for the next six weeks. The excitement builds and every week when you step on the scales, you cross your fingers that the numbers are going to remind you that those kale smoothies are worth every sip... and then... nothing!
I've seen it time and time again. Clients commit to the diet and exercise but get completely disheartened when they don't get the results they want. There can be a few different reasons why your body may struggle to lose weight but stress is the most common reason I see for being unable to shed that excess body fat and here's why...
Our lifestyles have changed drastically over the last hundreds of years. We no longer face the threat of being chased by a lion while hunting for food or the stress of not having food at all. In fact, quite the opposite. We can now have whatever foods we desire, delivered straight to our front door whenever we want! Nowadays there are very few legitimate threats that we need to prepare for. You may have heard the expression "fight or flight". This refers to the hormonal response our bodies produce when we feel threatened or in danger. Stress of any kind will produce this hormonal response except in today's world you can delete being chased by a lion and insert work, kids, caffeine, arguments with your partner, money troubles, restless sleep, traffic etc etc... Our lives are full of everyday stresses so our bodies are constantly in "fight or flight" mode because our primal instincts can't tell the difference between a lion chasing us and that overdue budget report we should have finished by now!
You'll notice the physical changes in your body when you are stressed. Your heart rate and blood pressure will rise, your breath will become shorter and more rapid, you may want to eat more (or not eat at all!) and you may feel foggy and unable to make rational decisions. On the inside, stress is busy producing the hormone Cortisol which causes fat storage and water retention. Back in the day fat storage was essential for survival when food was sometimes scarce but nowadays when we have no need to fast for weeks at a time, excess fat around the abdomen can become a health risk. You may be spending hours in the gym and eating healthy but are your stress levels sabotaging your efforts?
Stress is not only helping your body hold onto excess fat but it's also influencing your ability to complete everyday tasks and can cause:
Mental fogginess meaning that even though you may (or may not) do that exercise class you could find it hard to concentrate or give your best effort.
Scattered thoughts causing everyday tasks to become overwhelming (hello netflix!)
Poor quality sleep causing responses like reduced metabolism, cortisol build up, fatigue and increased hunger.
A low sex drive which isn't great for you or your relationship.
Mindless eating as a procrastination tool or coping mechanism.
If this sounds all too familiar to you then guess what? You aren't alone. Life is stressful and some days it's hard to take it easy. So here are 5 simple steps you can take to help de-stress your life...
1. Cut back on coffee. Now I LOVE my coffee and I don't believe drinking it is necessarily 'bad' for you BUT too much coffee causes your adrenal glands to work on overdrive which has the same effect on your body as stress.
2. Add yoga or meditation to your weekly routine. There are apps you can use that are less than 10 minutes a day to relax your mind and body. Try the 'Smiling Mind' app to start off with and even get the kids to do it with you!
3. Write a 'to do' list before you go to sleep. Going to bed with 27000 things to think about is just asking for a restless night's sleep. Put a pen and notepad next to your bed and write out a quick list of what needs to get done tomorrow so it's off your mind and on paper.
4. Take time to do something you love every day. Now I'm going to admit how much of a nerd I am right now but my favourite way to relax is playing 'The Sims' on my computer. When I'm playing, I am not checking emails and I barely look at my phone. I am fully relaxed and enjoying myself.
5. Be kind to yourself. Do things because you choose to and stop 'should-ing' everything. Listen to your body and be kind to it because you only get one after all <3
Here's to a happy, healthy and stress-free you.