The Effect of Stress on your Weight Loss Goals

Someone told me the other day that they were bored. I tried not to laugh. Bored? I’m not even sure what that is anymore. Remember the days when we had less to do? Less worries? Less stress?

These days, it seems like our days are completely full. We are working overtime, we are trying to squeeze in everything we are “supposed” to do, we over-schedule our days off and vacations, we sign up for classes and sports—we are just booked solid. And then other things hit, things we didn’t ever intend on happening, like illness, or death, or family break ups, that make things even more complicated. Many of us are just so tired.

Boy, are we stressed.

In an article published in Time Magazine, many adults say they have stress above manageable levels, and they aren’t managing it well. According to the article, common sources of stress are money, work, the economy, or relationships. How would you rate your stress level right now? What are you stressed about?

Chances are, if you are stressed, then you may have experienced “stress weight.” This is where you simply can’t lose weight, or you even gain weight. This is a real thing! Let me explain why this happens.

When you are stressed out, your body responds. It’s trying to save your body, in a sense. In caveman days, stress delivered extra hormones so you could run away from threats. These days we still have the “fight or flight response” to stress, but our sources of stress are very different. Instead of bears we’re fighting stress from bills, a sick parent, a child having trouble in school, overdue library books, a disorganized house, arguing with a spouse, and on and on. Some of it is small, but it piles and piles until it’s a huge amount of stress.

For many of us, the adrenal gland is continually firing off hormones to handle the stress load. Glycogen goes into the liver and muscles to offer quick energy our body thinks it needs. Except we aren’t usually running or doing anything physical to ward off the stress. So what happens? Our muscles deteriorate, we overeat, or we find another unhealthy way to cope. And our weight either stays the same or increases.

So what can you do to help? There are two major things.

#1. Reduce stress as much as you can.

Get out a sheet of paper and a pencil and write down everything that is causing you stress. Big or small. Things undone, people who have wronged you, deadlines looming. List it all. Now that you can see it, you can face it. Realize that you ARE carrying more stress than you realize.
If there is something or someone in your life causing you a lot of stress, then figure out how to release or reduce it. This is going to be a process of looking at each thing at a time and allowing yourself the opportunity to either let it go completely or reducing it as much as possible.

#2. Manage stress in the most healthy ways possible.

Stress is an inevitable part of life. While we can reduce it as much as possible, it’s nearly impossible to erase completely. So what can we do? Manage stress in the mostly healthy ways possible. Here are some ways that I deal with stress.

Exercise. I like to manage my stress with daily workouts. That’s my “me” time. And it uses up all my pent up energy that has built up with stress.

Nutrition Swap. When we are stressed, we want to comfort ourselves with foods that aren’t good for us. So good nutrition is key. Instead of a candy bar, how about a small piece of dark chocolate and a handful of almonds? Instead of a soda, how about some soothing chamomile tea with a dash of honey?

Time Management. If you have deadlines or projects that are causing you stress, sit down and map out a plan. Working backwards from the due date, figure out how much time you need to spend on it each day and what tasks need to be completed in order to finish on time. Also add in a make-up day in case something comes up on another day. This will help you relax and realize that your project will get done and you can let the stress go.

Sleep! If you are stressed, your body will probably get worn out. So make sure to make sleep a priority. Sleep gives you the rejuvenation you need to face a new day. Take a power nap mid-day if you need to for an extra boost, but keep it short so it doesn’t interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.

Meditate. Just search for “Guided Meditation” on iTunes or YouTube. Find a quiet spot and sit or lay for 10-20 minutes and listen. That’s all you need to bring your heart rate down, help clear your mind, and set your intentions. You’ll be more focuses and able to handle the stress that comes your way.

Time Magazine article: