I was catching up with a friend the other night after a long time. We tend to have very structured catch ups – Life, family, boys, diet/health/weight is the order it tends to go.
She was talking about doing everything to lose those last few kilos. You know the ones, the ones that JUST WON’T BUDGE no matter how healthy you’re eating and how much exercise you’re doing.
I was listening to her share her journey and she was so frazzled and stressed about it. I know how it feels, when you’re so close, you still feel so far and it starts to impact how you treat yourself and spills into your everyday life.
Disclosure: I’m not a health professional - but do you know what it is that may be holding back your weightloss? Stress. Yes, stress. I know this sounds like when you’re angry and someone says those horrid and unhelpful two words, “calm down”, but unfortunately this is the reality.
Just think about it for a second. Some will say; “when I’m stressed I lose my appetite” where others will say; “when I’m stressed I turn to comfort food” – but no matter which eating party you’re in, I’m in the latter, the mechanics in all our bodies treat stress the same.
Our bodies change when we’ve experienced chronic stress because we naturally head into fight or flight mode. In extreme cases, our insides think we’ve been burning a higher amount of calories than we have to deal with the strain – when in fact, we haven’t.
On the other side, if we tend to avoid food when we’re suffering from bouts of anxiety, we may lose our appetite for some time but as we disrupt our metabolic cycle, once we start eating again, we’ll gain weight very quickly – sometimes even more than the starting point.
At the end of the day, stress is a hormone. Also known as cortisol, it raises our insulin levels during testing times, which in turn, lowers our blood sugar levels and sees us crave and reach for those sugary and fatty foods à “comfort foods”.
According to a study by WedMD: “This happens, in part, because the body releases chemicals in response to food that might have a direct calming effect.”
It really is a rotten cycle – when you’re stressed about your body and/or life how can you destress?
I don’t want this article to turn into my de-stressing tips (mainly because I’m still trying to work out some for myself) but I thought I’d share what I’ve been taught and what has helped me thus far.
1. Cut down your exercise:
This one may come as a surprise, but you may be over-exercising. While many believe that’s the only way to enter a caloric deficit without starving yourself, it may in fact be doing you more damage than good. Say you’re currently doing six days of cardio or HIIT sessions a week, cut down to two or three and add some weights sessions and rest days.
Research has shown by incorporating weight sessions into your regime, it not only burns more calories and helps boost your metabolism but as an added bonus, actually burns more calories post workout too. That’s more calories for doing nothing! Also ensure to include rest days, this can mean laying on the couch or going for a calming walk with a friend. Either way, something as simple as a walk around your neighbourhood especially with a friend or a few laps in the pool is both calming and meditating.
2. Stop copying celebrity diets
Diets period don’t work. There are things such as quick fixes, but ‘quick’ is the key word here. In fact, they do more damage than good – like I said before, tampering with your metabolic system puts your body in fight or flight mode where majority of the time you end up putting on more weight than before.
I’m all for lifestyle changes – not diets – lifestyle changes. However, we have to remember these changes need to be specific for our individual needs. I’m five foot, if I was to follow say Gigi Hadid’s diet it wouldn’t work. Firstly, she’s 10x taller than me, probably works out more than me and our bodies probably digest different foods differently. You need something that works for you. If you’re concerned or unsure on what macro breakdown you should be following, I suggest speaking to your GP or a nutritionist.
3. Self love
I feel like when people say “love yourself” it’s like saying “stop stressing” – in theory it makes sense, but it’s much harder and so much more complex than that.
I’m yet to meet someone who loves themselves entirely every single day. For me, like the billions of people around the work am working on this. I have to say though, when I do make a constant effort to tell myself affirmations and stop putting pressure on myself, I feel SO much better.
Whether you repeat mantras to yourself each day or stick posted notes up on your mirror so it’s what you see as soon as you wake up, try it.
I also think there’s a different perspective about self-love for boys and girls. I think I’ll do a separate blog post on this and elaborate more, but simply put (not all but) the majority of girls will immediately look at the features they dislike about themselves when they first look in the mirror. However for bots, and again – generally speaking here, they tend to look at the things they like about themselves – just think about it! It’s true ay!
4. Essential oils
In recent years I’ve grown to love a balance between traditional and Chinese medicine. Essential oils is something I’ve only recently started using. After some (very) stressful few moths where my hormones were all out of whack and I was sleeping about three hours a night, I turned to the oils. I bought a lavender one for calming down and sleeping as well as an amber one for relaxing while staying awake.
The lavender ones lives on my bedside table and I use it religiously each night. I’ve noticed the biggest difference since using it. As for the amber one, I keep it in my handbag and take it everywhere for times of need. They’ve become my new perfumes!
5. Warm/hot water:
For some reason carrying around a hot bottle of water has really helped calm me – and I drink it too. Hot water feels so soothing on the inside when you drink it. I’m naturally always been a big water drinker but if you’re not, make sure you are drinking at least two litres per day as a lot of the time you’ll learn you’re not actually hungry, just thirsty.
So there you have it, my top five tips to destress and in turn lose weight. Again, I’m in no way an expert and still trying to work out the balance myself. I hope these tips and post helped you in some way and even better helped you understand how detrimental stress is on our bodies.