Stress is a given in today’s society. We are juggling more tasks than ever, with impeding thoughts that we need to produce more, be more and have more. But do we really know how much this is affecting our bodies? Being in a state of constant stress is wrecking havoc on us in many ways. Today, we are going to delve into how stress is affecting our ability to lose those last kilos or maintain a healthy weight.
First, let’s look at the two main reasons why stress promotes weight gain:
▵ Cortisol imbalance. Your stress hormone, cortisol, is needed to feel energised, jump out of bed in the morning and get on with your day. If it is present in the wrong levels, whether it be too high, or far too low, it won’t matter what your diet is like, your body will hold onto those last kilos for dear life.
▵ Ineffective gut function. As we saw last week, poor gut health leads to imbalance of bacteria, leaky gut, inflammation and autoimmune reactions; all contributors to weight gain. These factors cue your body to store fat, rather than burn it.
I pulled this list of HOW stress wrecks havoc on your gut from Dr. Raphael Kellman’s book, The Microbiome Diet. An amazing read for anyone wanting more info on gut health + how to fix your issues. I will be interviewing Dr. Kellman this week, with sights on his interview being posted in the next fortnight (exciting times!).
What’s further is this vicious cycle going on between the gut, weight management, and brain function. The gut is making 90% of our serotonin, which is our feel-good chemical. Without a well-functioning gut, our serotonin levels are reduced. This makes us feel shit, which lead us to eat incorrect foods, which leads to poor gut function, which leads to inability to control or manage weight, which leads to further stress, which leads to even poorer gut function, which goes on and on and on.
So how do we stop this vicious cycle?
▵ Sort out any digestive issues you might have. Take a probiotic, eat prebiotic foods, cook up a bone broth and mix it in your winter soups, buy good quality supplements, like this awesome complex Gut Relief. Rebuild your gut wall, replenish your gut bacteria and revel in awesome digestive health. Work with a health practitioner if you are lost as where to start.
▵ Eat mindfully. Chew your food, be grateful for what you are eating, engage ALL your sense when you sit down to enjoy a meal: smell, taste, and texture. Enjoy your meal time, don’t rush or shovel food down as fast as you can. Think about all the awesome nutrients you are taking in from your food, the energy you’re about to be rewarded with and how lucky you are that you have access to quality, nourishing foods.
▵ Find your best stress relief. A great book, The How of Happiness, goes over different ways of employing happiness-invoking activities in your life, and which work the best for you. Some of us can’t meditate, it’s actually creating more harm than good. For those that really struggle, I recommend trying Headspace, a beautiful app that talks you through meditative practice and being present. Though if that isn’t your jam, scheduling time to laugh your absolute ass off with friends might be a better way for you to feel happy, and de-stress. Whatever your happiness and de-stressor jam is, find it and employ it as often as possible.
▵ Decrease your focus on food as a weightloss tool and reframe your perception of food as fuel. When we think of foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ we really start to evoke negative feelings and a stressed response when we eat those ‘bad’ foods. No food is good or bad. Food is food and some food will serve us well and make us feel awesome. Then others will tantalise our tastebuds and make us happy in the moment, yet maybe sometime later make us crash or feel crap. That’s okay man! Seriously. You made a choice. You ate the cake to celebrate your friend’s birthday, and it was friggin’ delicious and you know what, yeah it made you feel shit, but tomorrow you are going to enjoy your nourishing breakky and lunch and all will be restored. I promise.
This is one of the biggest barriers to weight loss I find with my clients. If you ‘stuff up’, and then you beat yourself up; you are not doing yourself any favours. Yeah, if you are constantly shovelling chocolate down and not having any vegetables, healthy fats and quality protein, you are not serving your body well, we all know this. But if you are eating pretty well and doing your best to eat nourishing foods, if you have a little mishap every now and again; going out for dinner with friends and end up having a ‘blow out’, it doesn’t make you any less awesome or degrade your health if it’s only a sometimes thing. The more stress you place on yourself to eat perfectly, at the perfect times and not step one foot out of line, the less likely your efforts are going to lead you to losing weight. You need to chill out. Focus on food as fuel and the awesome properties it has to nourish you. Also finding delicious ways to prepare healthy foods will help you find adventure in your kitchen and enjoy your meals.
So some tips for moving forward: buy a probiotic and begin to restore your gut function, find your happiness jam, find time to enjoy your meals and be thankful for them and stop categorising food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and instead focus on the nourishing factor of the foods you’re eating, and if you have a mishap so what. Jump back on that bandwagon and continue fuelling your body in the awesome way that you are.
Keep at it, you really are doing the best you can and sometimes there are some underlying issues (i.e. too much stress, ineffective gut function) that are impeding your ability to lose weight. It’s not your fault, so please stop beating yourself up lovely! Start taking some of the steps outlined above and see if you can begin to foster a loving environment to enable you to lose the weight you’ve been trying to, or maintain where you are at now.