What if you think you are doing everything right, but you are still not losing weight?
To say that you would be frustrated, or stressed out, might put it mildly.
I have to admit, it’s kind of ironic that I decided to write about this when I did. I honestly did not expect it to be so relevant to my current situation. You see, I just went through a very stressful first 2/3 of January (think kids & legal issues), but honestly I felt happy and great the last 10 days of the month. So, you might be able to imagine my displeasure when I found my 1-pound weight loss in a month actually translated into a loss of lean muscle and a gain in fat pounds. I wanted to cry. I worked really hard in January on both eating right and working out. I followed Whole 30 the first half of the month, and counted calories/macros the second half of the month. Not to mention I worked out 4-5 days a week and even started back to running!
All for a one pound loss that left me with a higher body fat percentage?
I was frustrated.
I did all the right things. Except successfully manage my stress levels.
Prolonged stress can do really horrible things to your body… Insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, increased appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and the list goes on and on.
We do live in a stressful time, and if you are concerned about your health, it is imperative that you learn how to manage your stress levels.
When you are in a state of stress, your body releases extra cortisol. It’s important to understand that cortisol itself isn’t bad. It is the hormone of energy and alertness. In the cycle of a normal day, your cortisol levels will be higher in the morning, and the levels will slowly decrease over the course of the day so you can fall asleep at night.
Excessive cortisol in your body is where the problems are. When your body perceives a stressor it releases cortisol. Excessive stress causes an excessive release of cortisol. Excessive cortisol interferes with the signals for the hormones in charge of releasing fat, causing the fat to stay trapped in the cells in your body.
Fat trapped in your body is clearly not good for weight/fat loss.
So, in a stressful world, how do we combat this? What can you do to de-stress your life and reduce your cortisol levels?
Try and implement as many of the following as you can:
Sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Exercise. Regular exercise is extremely important in regulating cortisol levels. Regular exercise produces the feel-good endorphins that combat stress and anxiety. “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.” – Elle Woods
Reduce or eliminate caffeine. One 12oz mug of coffee can increase blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Cortisol can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood. One way to reduce cortisol levels is to eliminate caffeine altogether. I personally have stopped drinking all sodas (pop for you east coasters!), but I still enjoy coffee in the morning. However, I’ve made it my own personal rule to stop drinking coffee by 10 am.
Nutrition. Focus on eating nutritious, whole, and unprocessed foods. Reduce or eliminate processed carbs and refined sugars. Eat your fruit and veggies. Select foods from with a lower score on the Glycemic Index.
Meditate or listen to relaxation podcasts. Or something (prayer, yoga, etc.) that creates full body relaxation.
Do things that make you happy! If you are involved in activities that bring you joy, it would seem pretty obvious that you would be bringing that stress level down, right? What makes you happy? Do more of it and do it more often!