Obviously eating well and exercising are the foundation of fat loss. But, there are several other factors that can affect your body's ability to burn fat effectively. Stress is one of those things that can completely derail your fat loss efforts.
What is stress?
Stress is not something outside of your body...but the way your body responds to certain external stimuli. When your body perceives some kind of threat or internal imbalance, it has two responses...fight or flight, and it releases cortisol (the stress hormone). While cortisol gets a bad wrap, it isn't completely evil!
Your body has a natural cortisol cycle that helps with energy and focus throughout the day. However when the cycle is thrown off, and your cortisol levels remain consistently high, your body does what it can to preserve itself...which isn't a good thing for fat loss.
Where does stress come from?
There are plenty of things that cause stress in our lives: family, friends, work, finances, deadlines and major life changes are just a few things that can cause our bodies to have a fight or flight response. Two common things that people don't think about often as being stressors are over training (working out too much) and under eating (restricting your calories too much). These two things while they seem like a good idea for someone trying to lose weight, can actually cause your body to store fat.
Is all stress bad?
No! Stress for a short period of time can bring a surge of energy and focus. That's why people are able to lift cars after an accident or meet a deadline after procrastinating for a week. However, when your body's not given space to de-stress and your cortisol levels remain high, everything gets out of whack. Constant stress increases your hunger hormones, decreases your satiation hormones, tells your body to store fat, and messes with your sleep cycle. That means you crave more junk, eat more junk, and feel more like junk.
How do you avoid stress?
Stress is going to happen, ain't nothing we can do about that. What we can do is learn how to cope, so our body doesn't remain in a state of constant stress. Here are a few things that might help:
- Exercise and Recover: Exercising 3-5 times per week, for 30-60 minutes will give your body the hormonal lift it needs, while allowing it to recover and your cortisol levels to come down. Exercising strenuously every day will counteract your natural cortisol cycle. Doing things like yoga, pilates or walking on your off days will help you to stay active while not messing with your stress load.
- Eat enough, Eat Well: When people are trying to lose weight, they often cut their calories to levels that cause their body to go into starvation mode. When you exercise too much, and eat too little, your body begins to store fat, and your cortisol levels will remain elevated. It is absolutely critical that you do your best to fuel your body with whole foods that provide enough nutrients to get give your body the energy it needs.
- Pray: As a believer, one of the most important things I do to relieve stress is pray. Recognizing that God is completely in control of all things, and spending time in communication with Him, resets my mind and allows me to relax a bit!
- Gratitude: Daily writing out things you are grateful for helps to focus your mind on the positive. Those that look at the world with positivity, hope and joy are better able to handle the stress that's thrown at them each day.
- Establish routines: As much as possible, create routine in your life. Doing this will lighten the load of decision making, which can lower your stress levels over time.
- Drink Ionix: This has been a complete game-changer for me. The adaptogens (natural substances that help the body deal with stress) help your handle daily stressors. It's literally like a natural chill pill!
- Unplug: Constant time in front of a screen is overstimulating to your brain, and can cause your body to release more cortisol. Limiting screen time before bed, and throughout the day will help you to respond to stress more effectively.
While short amounts of stress are beneficial to productivity, prolonged amounts of stress can significantly impact your overall health and totally throw off your weight loss efforts. If you have been struggling to lose weight, make sure your stress levels are in check! If you are looking for a simple to follow workout program, shoot me a message, I'd love to find something that works for you!