Stress management is the 3rd thing on my list of priorities to have for weight loss or just a healthy happy life. All of us are under stress every single day. From our jobs, our families, our friends and heck even our recreational activities can cause us stress. Dealing with high levels of stress on a daily basis without learning how to lessen the stress load leads to chronic stress. Chronic stress leads to a whole slew of health problems, and weight gain is definitely one of them.
How we deal or don’t deal with that stress can actually stall our weight loss journey and cause us to gain weight even when we are eating well and exercising regularly. Even if you are eating a very low caloric diet. Believe it or not, eating too little is also stressing to our bodies and can cause weight gain, but we are not going to go into that today. I can rant on that another day.
It does not matter if it is a mental, emotional or physical stress. Our bodies do not know the difference. Stress is stress and it reacts the same way no matter what. In order to stop the weight gain we have to be the ones to change how we deal with the stress.
Some of us may “stress eat” as a way to try and lessen the stress and we all know the cycle that leads to. We think that the comfort food will help us and of course it does not. It actually ends up causing more stress because we usually eat too much, or eat foods that are triggers for us to binge. Then we compound the stress we already have with the stress of what we ate and how it is going to affect our weight loss.
On the other end , some us may feel that when we are stressed that going for a run or slinging the hell outta some iron is going to help lower those stress levels. As a matter of fact, I was one of the worlds worst about going for a nice long jog or putting in a kick ass training session in order to get my mind off my mental or emotional stress and it definitely did that. Buuuuuuut, it can actually compound our stress levels as well, because lots of times when we are in that frame of mind, we go balls to the wall and work ourselves until we are completely wiped out. We think we have done well because we are too tired to move, think or even blink sometimes. Now does that sound stress relieving?
So, now that we know stress eating and stress working out is not good, maybe we think WOW, then maybe vegging out in front of the TV for a few hours and binge watch the new season of OITNB is the way to go? Sorry. Nope. Sitting and doing nothing for long periods of time are just as stressful on our bodies as as excessive exercise and stress eating.
Sux don’t it? Cuz all those things sound really good when all you wanna do is get the hell away.
I promise you I get it. It is frustrating as hell. We are doing so well one minute, and then Wham Bam something we never expected drops a shit ton of stress on us and since we can’t do any of the above, what the hell are we supposed to do? We don’t know where to turn because we see all the progress we have made either stalled or going down the drain because we have gained some of it back.
Well, let me tell you a little secret. Often times when we feel insecure or frightened, our bodies will pad us with weight as a form of protection. What we have to do is acknowledge that there is something going on in our life that is making us feel insecure or afraid. We will have to let our weight issue be 2nd to what the real problem is and work on the real problem first. The real problem is what is causing the stress to begin with that is in turn putting on the weight…or putting it back on. When we begin to feel safe and secure again, our bodies will respond better and will not be so diligent about holding on to those fat stores it thought we needed to begin with.
Truthfully, I fought fat loss for more than 30 years and until I began to deal with the underlying cause of my stress issues, I lost weight over and over again and always gained it back along with a few pounds extra. I am still working on some issues to this day, but I also have practices in place that help me keep my stress levels considerably lower than they used to be.
So, what are some of those practices I have in place or that I recommend?
Nutrition wise do not try to do anything crazy like try to restrict your calories even more. I would recommend discontinuing intermittent fasting if doing that, but only because maybe trying to have more frequent meals that are balanced with plenty of protein, with a little fat and carbs can help keep the cravings away. As always try to keep protein and veggies our biggest priority to stay full for longer, but making sure to have enough fat and carbs to be satisfied. Chocolate craving? This stuff is the bomb! Craving Cocoa Seriously, get it! Use it as chocolate milk sub, as hot chocolate, mix with yogurt for pudding, all sorts of ways to get the chocolate fix.
Well, if you are an exercise junkie like me, you will be happy to know that you do not have to quit exercising, but you will need to tone it down a bit. Listen to what your body actually needs. Is it your mind telling you that you need to go hard or go home? Or do you really need a good workout because you had little to no movement today?
If you feel like you really need some exercise, then I would get in a basic strength training session without a bunch of high intensity in it. Get in a nice dynamic warm up and then pick 4-6 compound movements and do 3-5 sets of 8-10 reps and a few minutes of core work at the end. You should get feel good after the workout but not just completely toast. Then go for a minimum of a 15 minute cool down walk. A SLOW LEISURE WALK. NOT A POWER WALK. No, I did not yell at you on the interwebs, I was just trying to emphasize my point that this should be relaxing and you should not exert yourself at all in this walk. We want to put your body back into the rest and digest mode and take it out of the fight or flight mode. So, just kinda meander along is best and outside if possible. Being out in nature is always stress relieving and this time of year you get to hear the birds and the insects, and if there is a nice summer rain then all the better!
A gentle yoga class is good if we have tuned in and realize that our body is not really craving exercise but our mind is. Seriously though, a gentle yoga class. Restorative or Yin or something very easy and relaxing. Not a power yoga or a physically demanding class at this time of stress.
Leisure walking at anytime is good. As a matter of fact, one of the best stress relievers in the world is leisure walking in nature. If that is not available, then getting on the treadmill and listening to some relaxing music will suffice.
Some or my favorite stress relieving activities are deep breathing – inhale and exhale through your nose. Take 10 great big long deep breaths, lying in legs up the wall position (google legs up the wall, it is exactly what it sounds like) listening to some soft music – Pandora has some great relaxing stations, meditation – get the insight timer app for some great guided meditations, it is available for iphone and android , laughing – a 30 minute sitcom is a good idea but usually no longer than 45 min sitting in front of the TV, coloring – yes coloring 🙂 massage – not a deep tissue massage but a relaxing massage, sex – of course , napping – because most of us do not get enough sleep.
Do you have some great stress relievers that I did not go over above or have any questions about the things I did not go into detail about in the last paragraph? Feel free to ask in the comments or shoot me a direct message.
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