When you want to lose weight, you often gain a particularly narrow focus. You become ultra strict about what you eat; you make sure you run 4 times a week; you focus on lifting weights more often. These things will all help you in balance but there is more to a healthy life style than losing weight – there are things that will hinder your progress even when you make all the right weight loss choices.
If there’s too much stress in your life, your body may be doing things subconsciously, things that sabotage your weight loss efforts. You need to remove this risk before you begin thinking about your new healthy lifestyle.
Alternatively you may be losing weight without knowing why and sometimes stress is the cause – this isn’t good for you either (stress never is). You may enjoy the weight loss but stress is associated with nearly as many negative health effects as being overweight is.
I know a lot of people that are drawn to comfort foods when they are under stress. Excessive emotion – anger, sadness or frustration – makes these people reach for food almost without thinking of it. Comfort foods are also traditionally terrible for you: chocolate, ice cream, cookies, potato chips and pizza are all common.
When you are under a great deal of stress, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Cortisol does a lot of things in the body but the most basic summary of it would be: okay short term; bad long term. It’s like adrenaline (produced in fact by the adrenal gland) – it’s function is to help us in extremis – when we’re under pressure.
Modern life has been associated with frequent, high stress levels – often without letting up. This kind of environment can lead to too much cortisol being produced too often though. Some of the worst side effects include a suppressed immune system, reduced bone formation and muscle wastage – you may be eating the same amount of food as when you’re not stressed but you’re not burning off as many calories.
If you are dealing with a lot of stress it may not be the best time to begin that weight loss regime. If you realize that you are stressed, find ways to deal with it. Exercise will help as will eating healthily (don’t focus on a stressful weight loss regime though). Walking, socialising and taking the pressure off yourself in work or at home can all help. Make some time for a bath, get a massage, light some candles, read a book, meditate – there are many ways to counter the harmful encroachment of stress into your life.
If you feel you’re not able to rectify things yourself then a visit to a professional may be just what you need – visit your doctor and lay everything out for him. Explain your long term goal to lose weight and get in shape too. Never overlook the advice you can get from a trained professional.