How To Keep Stress From Ruining Your Progress
Okay, okay, you get it! Stress plays a huge role in your ability to lose fat and/or gain muscle. The next question is what can I do about it?.
Since the brain cant self-regulate when youre stressed and cortisol levels are running high establishing goal-supporting habits, adding stress-relieving activities and creating cortisol-reducing strategies ahead of time is critical to your success.
In a perfect world, you would be able to eliminate ALL stress from your life, but lets be honest, stress is unavoidable these days. So why not build some armor to protect you and your goals when stress creeps into your life?
The trick is to retrain your brain and create go-to routines that support your goals instead of working against them. That way, when your brain goes into autopilot, you still make progress.
Habits save you from having to make in-the-moment decisions which we know tend to do the opposite of support our goals. Here are some habits you can work on:
How Hormones Work Under Stress
Stress makes your body release an excess of cortisol hormone which gets in the way of your metabolism. These are often linked to a slower metabolism. This can also mean that you lose your appetite all together.
Stress may alternatively over stimulate the secretion of the thyroid glands. This will lead to not only a gregarious appetite but also a speedier calorie burning scenario in your body. While it all sounds good too much of everything can never be good for a long time.
Your Bodys Fight Or Flight Response Can Speed Up Your Metabolism
When youre stressed, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Also known as the acute stress response, this physiological mechanism tells your body it must respond to a perceived threat.
Your body readies itself by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline prepares your body for vigorous activity, but it can also minimize your desire to eat.
Meanwhile, cortisol signals for your body to temporarily suppress functions that are nonessential during a crisis. This includes your digestive, immune, and reproductive system responses.
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Lets Start With The Brain
Since the brain is your bodys central control, lets start here!
Eating healthier is a goal most people have when they start any kind of nutrition and lifestyle change. To achieve this goal, you make a plan to eat out less. Things go great for the first few days but then your boss gives you an impossible deadline which instantly puts you in a state of stress.
Instead of eating your meal-prepped lunch, you opt to go to Five Guys with your coworker. Then you are mad at yourself for straying from your goal and stress out even MORE! Does this sound familiar?
If so, know that there is a perfectly good explanation for your decision in fact, it was not a decision at all. When you are under stress, the decision-making part of your brain is compromised .
The prefrontal cortex is located in the front region of the brain and is responsible for regulating thoughts and actions, which includes selecting and coordinating goal-directed behavior. This region of the brain is highly sensitive to stress. When you are stressed, your brain reallocates resources so it can focus on the stress and in doing so resorts to autopilot and routine to save energy.
This happens at the expense of conscious decision-making like choosing to skip the burger. When the brain is directing its attention to stress, it shifts to making less outcome-controlled behavior, or goal-directed behavior, and relies on what is easy and familiar .
How Do You Know If Youve Built Enough Trust To Go There
In truth: Theres no definitive test that will allow you to know, for sure, how your client will respond when you bring up their big upstream problem.
But youre probably in a good space if your client is no longer showing signs of resistance. In other words, during your sessions together, your client continually nods, saying things like, Yes! Yes! Yes! Thats exactly how it is for me! And when you go over action steps together, your client consistently puts them right into practice.
If all of thats happening on a regular basis: Youre ready to try the 3-step process below.
If thats nothappening: Stay with nutrition-centered practices a bit longer. Maybe instead of addressing emotional stress directly, you do it indirectly by helping your client deal with physical stressors such as nutrient deficiencies, food intolerances, or over-training.
Also consider what you might be doing to trigger any resistance. What can you do to help your client feel seen and heard? Are there ways to empathize more with your clients situation? Could you spend more time listening and restating and less time lecturing?
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Journal To Reduce Stress
Sometimes we cant do much about the situations that cause us stress. Life is not always in our hands.
However, we can find positive ways to manage our emotions and thought patterns.
The constant run of thoughts and worries in our mind leads to chronic stress and high levels of cortisol. Sometimes writing down your thoughts and documenting your feelings can be a way to stop you always overthinking about things.
Grab a notebook and spend 10 minutes each night writing down any worries you have as well as all the positive things that are happening in life.
Sign #: Only Someone With Superpowers Could Do Their Life
Your client might, in passing, mention that they have a full-time job as well as a side hustle. A little later, the same person reveals theyre raising three beautiful childrenall under age 5.
And one of them has a chronic health condition.
Oh, and their in-laws just moved in.
Such people might wear stress like a badge of honor. But youre left wondering: How are they still walking around?
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To Lose Weight Faster Control Your Stress Heres How To Do It Effectively
A busy lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with stress. And while stress is known to cause anxiety, headaches, insomnia, and exhaustion, among other things, it is also linked to weight gain. So, this may be the reason why you are not losing weight exercising and eating right.
A new study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, shows how chronic exposure to stress is linked with obesity due to the relationship between fat cells and the timing of stress hormones. if you experience chronic, continuous stress or take glucocorticoids at night, the resulting loss of normal circadian glucocorticoid oscillations will result in significant weight gain, says Mary Teruel, assistant professor of chemical and systems biology at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Nutrition and fitness consultant Munmun Ganeriwal says in times of stress, our body releases hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is linked with insulin resistance, sugar cravings, and weight gain. The equation is higher stress equals higher cortisol which means a greater craving for junk food which leads to more belly fat, she says.
The effect of stress over time
What to do
The strategies to beat stress and associated weight gain involve relaxing the brain, calming the nerves and cells, as well as stimulating the production of repairing hormones- HGH and testosterone which counter the negative effects of cortisol. Heres a simple four-step approach suggested by Ganeriwal and Thacker to do so:
When Someone Struggles To Lose Fat It Can Tell You A Lot
Its like a dashboard indicator that alerts you to problems.
Except, unlike your cars dashboard, this warning sign doesnt come with an owners manual that helps you pinpoint the precise problem.
The issue, of course, could be lots of things.
Maybe someone is unintentionally eating more than theyre tracking. Theyre not realizing, for example, the true size of their portions.
Or, for people whove been dieting for a long time, perhaps their metabolism has adapted and a reverse diet could be in order.
But what if the problem doesnt start with food?
Lets say it stems not from what someones eating, but rather from how theyre coping with any number of stressors, from anxiety to anger to unhappiness to lack of sleep.
- Theyre pounding soda all day because of a high-pressure job.
- Theyre skipping exercise because of the challenges of new parenthood.
- Theyre binging at night because of some deep-seated resentment, smoldering just beneath the surface.
Theres almost no way to fix the secondary problem until youve addressed the root issue. In fact, lifestyle stressors not only make fat loss harder, they can make it darn near impossible for some.
So much so, they can be the X-factor for fat loss: the one variable that matters most for success.
Many nutrition coaches understand this, of course.
But our clients?
So how do you help clients go there? Without accidentally offending them? Or having them say something like, Youre a nutrition coach, not a shrink?
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Stress And Muscle Gain
Exercise causes stress on the body and central nervous system. Adding exercise to your already stressed state can do more harm than good, especially if your goal is to gain muscle.
Remember cortisol? Unfortunately, it affects weight loss AND muscle gain. Heres how:
Alteration Of The Hpa Axis
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis controls the bodys response to stress, which affects cortisol levels.
When the body is under stress, the pituitary gland signals to the adrenal glands to release cortisol. This hormone increases the bodys fuel for energy by releasing fatty acids and glucose from the liver.
Cortisol also helps regulate the bodys immune response and reduces inflammation.
Chronic stress impairs the functioning of the HPA axis, causing changes in metabolism and eating habits.
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What Can I Do
âRead the labels,â says Miles. âYou need to look at the overall energy and calories. Although a food may have a reduced amount of fat, it may still have the same amount of calories.â
A food labelled âlow-fatâ may still contain more calories than an alternative. For example, a âlow-fatâ muffin may contain more calories than a currant bun.
Find more healthy food alternatives in Healthy food swaps.
The Link Between Stress And Cortisol
Researchers have long known that rises in the stress hormone cortisol can lead to weight gain. Every time you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, and as a result, glucose is released into your bloodstream. All of this is done to give you the energy you need to escape from a risky situation .
Once the threat has subsided, your adrenaline high wears off and your blood sugar spike drops. This is when cortisol kicks into high gear to replenish your energy supply quickly.
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What Causes A Stressed
Even though stress plays a major role in the buildup of stubborn belly fat that doesnt mean its everything. Your diet and exercise usually have the biggest impact on the size of your lower stomach fat. Then genetics is also a factor as many people have a natural pear-shaped body. Those with an apple-shaped body tend to have worse heart health .
As you age your muscle mass decreases causing your body fat to increase . Having a higher body fat will cause you to quickly store excess fat in places your genetics predisposed to . Since many people tend to gain weight as they age this will also contribute to increases in abdominal fat .
Is belly fat caused by stress?
But with that said your stress also can have a hidden role in the build-up of stomach fat. Constant stress releases the fight or flight response hormone called cortisol . Cortisol is a well-known stress hormone that your body releases when you feel threatened .
With this cortisol pumping through your body youll be better adapted to escape an emergency or fight off a threat. Now its fine if cortisol is going through your body once in a while but when its constant then it becomes a problem. Cortisol can signal for your body to start storing fat in your abdominal area even if youre skinny .
Another problem that arises from having stomach fat is it causes an increase in cortisol . Having visceral fat creates an unhealthy cycle of constant cortisol that especially affects women.
The Importance Of Sleep And Exercise For Stress Management
In several experimental studies, short-term sleep deprivation led to increased calorie intake and weight gain.
This may be because of changes in the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, and a greater intake of high-calorie foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. Most adults should aim to get seven hours or more of sleep each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Exercise helps lower stress levels and may help decrease symptoms of anxiety, according to a systematic review of randomized clinical trials published in August 2015 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
But the benefits of moving regularly dont end there. Exercise can have direct effects on weight by helping burn calories and increasing lean muscle mass, which helps with weight control, says Chao. Regular exercise can help improve your physiological toughness when facing stress. Exercise can lead to beneficial adaptations in the stress response system that improve how your body reacts to future physiological stressors, which may result in the body being more efficient at coping with psychological stressors.
Exercising regularly can also help you more rapidly recover from stressors and decrease negative feelings following a stressor. This lessens the overall wear and tear that the stressors have on the body, says Chao.
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Health3 Things This Man Did To Lose 105 Pounds
It would suggest that any method people can use to beat stress could be of benefit, Heaney said. I think the challenge is for people who are stressed often. I dont think jumping into a 30-minute yoga or Pilates class will be enough to address that.
The kinds of activities that might help are those that need 100 percent of our attention, Heaney said.
That could mean a game of tennis over running on a treadmill, for example.
Certain activities we do are not absorbing enough to distract from stress, Heaney said. Whereas jogging might be a good healthy sport, you can sometimes still ruminate and be stressed because it doesnt require your sole attention.
Ways To Calm Your Mind And Body
By no means is this list exhaustive. Merely think of it as a jumping-off point for brainstorming. Its more important to collaboratively explore what a client feels works for them and much less important to serve as a human encyclopedia of stress-relievers.
|Quick & free|
1. Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Body composition, metabolism, sleep, psychological and eating patterns of overtraining syndrome: Results of the EROS study . J Sports Sci. 2018 Aug 36:190210.
2. Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, Dejager J, Taylor SE. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 2010 May 72:35764.
3. Grammatikopoulou MG, Gkiouras K, Markaki A, Theodoridis X, Tsakiri V, Mavridis P, et al. Food addiction, orthorexia, and food-related stress among dietetics students. Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Aug 23:45967.
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The Relationship Between Stress And The Hormone Cortisol
Research shows that an increase in the stress hormone cortisol can lead to an increase in weight. Every time you get stressed, your adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline.
This leads to a glucose release into the bloodstream. The body does this to give you extra energy to escape risky situations. Upon the reduction of the threat, your adrenaline level reduces, leading to a decrease in blood sugar. It is at this point that cortisol kicks in to replenish your energy.
Since sugar provides your body with the quick energy it desires, sugary foods are usually what you reach out for when stressed. The main disadvantage of doing this is that your body ends up storing sugar, especially after a stressful occasion. This energy is stored in form of abdominal fat. This fat is usually quite hard to shed and is usually related to excessive weight gain.
Raised Cortisol Levels Linked To Weight Gain And Abdominal Obesity
However, prolonged and constant feeling of stress can affect your health in many ways, including raised blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels and elevated stress cortisol levels. Raised cortisol levels triggered by chronic stress have been associated with weight gain and abdominal obesity.
For instance, a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine reported that individuals with higher levels of cortisol in their bodies tended to have larger waist measurements and a higher body mass index compared to those with lower levels. Similarly, a 2018 review study found that higher long-term cortisol levels are strongly linked to having abdominal obesity.
However, it may be noted that not all people with obesity have high cortisol levels, since genetics may play a role in glucocorticoid sensitivity.
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