You have probably heard me talk fat loss killers in social media posts and videos, but there are so many moving parts that have to work in harmony to achieve fat loss that it’s important to really highlight the major sources of problems. We have talked about how water, diet, sleep and movement all affect fat loss, the one that most people tend to forget is STRESS.
Stress can affect your fat loss in several different ways. As a matter of fact, it can be the major wrecking ball that takes out the other pillars necessary to keep your weight trending down toward your goals.
First, let’s address what constitutes stress. People use the word stress interchangeably with anxiety, feeling anxious, fearful, nervous, overwhelmed, panicked or stressed out. Usually stress manifests in people’s lives without them noticing, but usually shows it’s ugly face through anger, irritability, depression, tension, headaches, joint and muscle aches, gastrointestinal distress, frequent illness and lack of sleep. Your body cannot tell the difference between stressors or negative emotions. All of these things to your body are simply stress. A fight with your spouse, rough day at the job, lost $20 at the slot machine, feeling under the weather . . . the situations are numerous, but the point is, your body doesn’t know the difference between these situations or if you’re being chased by a lion or starving. All stressors cause your body to automatically go into flight or fight mode to help you survive that famine or fight that lion. To do this, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol is released, glucose is also released into your bloodstream. Glucose is your body’s primary source of energy. Great, your body is now suited up for battle.
The problem is when the threat is gone (great job, you killed the lion), your adrenaline wears off and your glucose wears off, but your cortisol goes into high gear to replenish your energy supply. So what does this mean for you? Let’s break it down
When your glucose level drops, your body craves sugar because your body knows that sugar will give it the quick energy boost it thinks it needs. The problem with this is, when you consume so much sugar after stressful situations your body tends to store as abdominal fat, which is usually one of the hardest areas to lose it. This creates the infinite loop of stress, cortisol, gain weight, crave sugar, eat sugar, gain more weight and round and round the mulberry bush we go.
So maybe you think you’re stronger and smarter than your body so you don’t end up in the sugar cycle mentioned above. Ok, let’s cuss and discuss what that pesky cortisol does to your metabolism. Even if you aren’t eating high fat or high sugar, cortisol slows your metabolism and as an added perk, also raises your insulin, a hormone that contributes to fat storage. Researchers have found that stress could cause as much as an 11 pound weight gain in one year.
So there’s other perks of high stress, anxiety, cortisol (whatever word, be it 4 letter or otherwise, you’re using for it) on your body. (I really hope you’re picking up on my snarky sarcasm toward stress, because it can be a pesky bugger.)
Are you an emotional eater . . . STRESS. Cortisol not only causes unhealthy cravings but can also make you eat more than normal.
Do you struggle to plan meals or prepare meals when you’re stressed? That probably makes you want to hit up that Chik-Fil-A down the street or just grab something easy rather than taking the time to make a healthy choice.
Stress can often mean you’re overworked, have a busy schedule or spend too much time commuting can really cut into your time at the gym or other activities you would usually do. This also makes people cut out meals from their diet.
And last but not least . . . DRUMROLL PUH-LEASE . . .
Remember SLEEP and how not getting enough sleep can cause you to hold on to extra body weight?? Let’s recap, not getting enough sleep can cause ghrelin, your body’s hunger hormone, to increase and also make your leptin levels decrease. Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full. So basically when you don’t get adequate sleep, you eat more because you’re hungrier and feel less full.
Ok back to stress. Stress comes in clutch to really round out this terrible cycle by making it difficult for you to fall asleep, stay asleep and get good sleep. So that cycle ends up looking like this>stress=little sleep/poor sleep=increased appetite. It is a nasty cycle, and when you pair that with the research showing that lack of sleep also leads to a decrease in metabolism, you then aren’t sleeping, you’re eating more and your body isn’t burning as much of what you put in.
I’m not sure how you’re feeling about that little cocktail of weight loss disasters, but if you’re 100% not ok with it, continue reading and let’s talk strategies to fix it.
First, we need to say that you will never be fully free of cortisol. Your body does need some, but it produces its own normal amount without you jump starting it like a dead car battery. You have to practice stress management. You can do this through self care, meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, getting adequate sleep, exercising, journaling, reading, listening to music, and eating a diet of health foods. These things are very important to your mental health, physical health and overall well being. There’s nothing frou frou about taking care of yourself. You have one body and one life, treat them well. Other simple things you can do are drinking water and eating more whole foods. These things help fight cravings but you have to put in the work to keep your mind right in order to hit your goals.
If you have questions or want to discuss your situation in more detail, click the link and apply for a coaching call.
Kayli is a certified personal trainer and online coach that specializes in fitness, wellness, nutrition, mindset, mobility and everything in between.