This is Part 4 of a five-part series called Your Weight Isn’t Your Fault.
You’ve probably heard that stress can affect weight. But how exactly does that work? And is it the reason behind stubborn weight loss?
Pretend it’s 10am and you’re late to work again because of traffic. You spilled coffee on your blouse while driving…but you don’t even stop to dab at it with a paper towel. Instead, you walk straight into a client meeting to present a big project.
(Stress level: 8 out of 10)
If we zoom into your bloodstream, we’d see blood glucose mobilizing. At the same time, your blood pressure increases as blood volume goes up.
That means your body is utilizing fat, carbohydrates and salt to fuel its fight or flight response.
Hey, no problem. The body is designed to manage big stressors – like being chased by a tiger. Your stress response system kicks in, you handle it, and then…
Well, evolutionarily speaking, you’d rest. That’s what your body is designed to do. Recuperate for awhile.
You check your phone messages and your 80 year old mother is asking for your help. Your sister called to complain about your mother. You have a mountain of work on your desk and are behind on some bills at home.
(Stress level: 6 of out 10)
You pass by your reflection and the self-deprecating voice in your head starts talking about how you look fat in that skirt.
(Stress level: 9 of out 10)
In short, the stress doesn’t stop. You don’t recuperate.
My clients lose weight when we take a whole body, whole life approach. You can burn calories until the cows come home, but there’s almost always more to the story. (In fact, too much exercise can be a counterproductive form of stress.)
Did you know that just 1 hour of stress negatively impacts gut flora?
Or that insulin is required to bring blood glucose down after a “fight or flight” incident?
Neither are a big deal unless they’re happening every day, all day. That’s when you start experiencing negative side effects of the stress response system, like gut imbalances and insulin resistance…leading to weight gain.
And remember: Your fight or flight system is fueled by fat, carbs and salt. So of course you’re craving chocolate covered pretzels. Comfort food? Stress eating? It’s real. Food quells the sensation of stress in the body.
Finally, as the coup de grace, belly fat deposits are created to protect your most vulnerable organs during times of stress. To our primitive bodies, stress means the possibility of starvation. Abdominal fat, as much as we hate it, is doing us a favor. It actually sends calming signals to the brain.
Don’t you feel better now?
Here’s what you need to know about stress.
Stress isn’t just the job. The traffic. The bills. That stuff alone is unrelenting, but it’s more than that.
Your body is stressed by less obvious things:
– food allergies
– blood sugar dysregulation
– inadequate sleep
– environmental toxins
– poor quality diet
– lack of movement
– chronic infections
– negative thought patterns
…and so much more. In fact, there’s a name for it:
It’s called your “Allostatic Load” aka the sum total of all the crap you’ve had to deal with.
If you’re having trouble losing weight you’ll want to reduce your allostatic load so your body can get out of danger mode, stabilize and stop holding onto extra weight.