It’s a bit ironic I’m writing about stress today. Although I don’t consider myself a high-stress person (I learned to “let it go” at an early age I suppose) I was feeling a big stressed by my lack of blogging! Here’s what I’ve been up to in the past 6 weeks:
- My sister got married! I know it’s all about the bride and groom (blah blah) but phew, weddings take up a significant amount of mental space and time for everyone involved.
- I’m been writing, just not for my blog. I work on a lot of side projects, articles for other websites, and writing for my normal 9-5 gig.
- It’s nice out: sunshine is like an essential food group for me. I am 100x happier if it’s sunny out so with the nice weather, I find it harder to sit inside on a computer when I could instead be outside.
- Living outside the computer: if I have to choose between life in the real world with real people and sitting at a computer, I will choose real life living every time. Keeps me happy and less stressed, which leads to today’s topic….
That weight is calories in vs. calories out a common misconception. Besides my major grip that this equation is so inaccurate and oversimplified, it also fails to take into account all other factors that affect weight. If weight was truly just what we eat and how we exercise, would there really be a billion dollar diet business? No. But there is because that approach isn’t enough.
Let’s talk stress: probably one of the biggest issues that can hinder weight loss. You can do everything right from an eating prospective and still not lose weight if you are stressed. It comes down to a two major issues.
1) Stress Hormones
Typically when I say hormones, people think raging-teenage-hormones, but there are hundreds of hormones in your body that control EVERYTHING. When you’re stressed, levels of cortisol rise. Cortisol increases blood sugar, increases inflammatory markers and mobilized triglycerides in the blood to be stored as visceral fat. Visceral fat is abdominal fat, what most people what to get ride of but also the type of fat with the greatest health risks. This stress-hormone response is an adaptive mechanism from way back in the Stone Age. Stress=charging Wooly Mammoth, and when a wooly mammoth is charging at you, you better have some energy quickly available to run as fast as you can. The stressors in our lives may have changed, but the way the body handles it isn’t any different. Cortisol is also directly linked to higher caloric consumption. If you’re body is stress there are two main concerns: eating energy for now and storing energy for later. Other long-term side effects of cortisol include depressed immune function, gastrointestinal dysfunction, high blood pressure, dementia, and infertility.
2) Lack of Sleep
When you’re stressed, typically you lose sleep. And when you lose sleep, you become more stressed and less able to deal with normal day-to-day stress. Cue vicious cycle. Perhaps an even bigger issue is that the less you sleep the more likely you are to overeat. People who sleep less than 7 hours/night have been shown to eat an extra 300 calories/day. People who sleep less than 5 hours are 50% more likely to be obese! This is for a few reasons. First, sleep is directly linked to hunger hormones (notice hormones again)? Lack of sleep disrupts your ability to regulate grehlin (hunger hormone) and leptin (the satisfaction hormone). Meaning you’re hungrier than usual and less satisfied on a typical amount of food. When you’re tired, your ability to make healthy food choices and will-power significantly decreases. If you’re tired and cranky, darn it!-you want that muffin in the morning because it’s easier. See how this could be become a problem?
Solution: The Sleep-Hygiene Solution
- Set a bedtime: kids need a bedtime because it give them structure and helps establish a natural circadian rhythm that allows for good quality of sleep. You’re no different. Set a bedtime for yourself or here, I’ll do it for you. 8 hours before your alarm is set, get in bed 🙂
- Exercise: exercise can be helpful for weight loss because it burns calories but it is also helpful for weight loss because it helps you sleep. If you didn’t do anything all day, why would your body be ready for bed?
- Banish electronics: I’m guilty of this. My phone is definitely the last thing I look at before bed. Blue light emitted from electronics keep your brain firing on all cylinders. Beds are for sleep and sex only.
- Write it down: feel like your mind is racing? Write down worries or to-do lists before bed to “purge” your brain, so to speak.
Stress is a big thing I address with clients because the whole-body approach is the only way to truly make a difference. So what can you do? Reduce your stress! Simple? Not quite. Usually finding time to do stress-relieving exercises stresses people out. What a catch-22! So what is a stressed, 21st century person to do?
We’re likely all “shallow” breathers, struggling to take energizing, and oxygenating breaths of air. We live on oxygen. If we don’t get enough of it, believe me, your body isn’t too happy about it. Three times/day, try the 4-8-8 breathing pattern. Breath in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 8 counts, and breath out through your mouth for 8 counts.
2) Say “No”
I think most of us try to be people pleasers, but unfortunately, you can’t please anyone or fulfill anyone else’s expectations unless you are a well-functioning human being and stress isn’t going to help this cause.
3) Set Aside 15 minutes of “me” time
15 minutes to recharge is a good place to start. Read a magazine, find a new blog to read, watch some entertaining YouTube videos. These little spurts of relaxation help to avoid chronically elevated cortisol levels.
4) Listen to music
First of all, music makes your day more enjoyable. I listen to music all day in my office (thank you Pandora). If you have to be in one spot all day, you might as well make it a nice environment. Second of all, studies have consistently shown music is an effective stress-fighter.
It’s important to keep in mind that weight, and health in general, is comprised of multiple factors. Although diet is a HUGE part of weight and health, there are certainly other factors to consider. Take a moment to address your mental health before getting frustrated by your physical health.
Cheers to a happy Monday!
Just Curious: What are your favorite ways to combat stress?