Why Stress Might Be Blocking Your Progress...
Let me take you back roughly 2.5million years ago.
You are now a Cave Dweller. You have a lovely little cave and you've decorated it with nice little stick drawings. You've made "FIRE" and the tribe is impressed by your splendor. Not to mention everyone loves your snazzy outfit to cover your modesty (barely). Everything is hunky-dory in your little tribe.
Until a BEAR comes crashing in. Your tribe disperses, they run away in terror, screaming "SAVE US OH SEXY FIRE CREATOR!" So you, the fire god and loincloth hero, grab your little stick with a rock tied on the end of it and face the bear.
What's happening in your body right now? Your heart rates increasing, your blood pressures rising, your muscles are tightening, your digestive system shuts down, your breath becomes shallower, you senses become more sensitive. Put it simply, your body is preparing to fight. In that split second your brain is analysing wether to fight, run, play dead or reason with the rabid bear (I forget to mention the rabies).
You body is pumping out adrenaline to preparing those muscles. And after that....enter cortisol.
And in our tale you jab the stick weapon at the bear who says "Oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you, my apologies" and trundles away. Your bodies hormones regulate and then normal bodily functions can resume. Happily ever after.
*END OF PLAY*
Fast forward to 2022. The bear is replaced by deadlines, relationships, worries about appearances, abilities, work, school, neighbours, families..the list is endless. Our stressors are slightly different but no less "aggressive." There are also bears too.
But what can happen is that our bodies get stuck in the fight/flight mode because our body hasn't been shown that the threat has passed. The bear didn't apologise and go away. It's still lurking around your cave and you don't know where it is. We are stuck producing cortisol...stuck causing our bodies main functions to stop....stuck in stress.
We need to show ourselves that the bear is gone.
And the fact of the matter is...stress stops weight loss AND YES chronic stress causes weight gain.
But why? Let me just briefly talk about two very important hormones, Insulin and Cortisol.
Insulin: The only fat storing hormone in the body. If insulin is increased it triggers the body to store fat, mostly round the middle.
Cortisol: Released from stress and influences blood glucose. Causes blood sugar levels to increase.
And these two bad boys have an important role to play when it comes to stress. And a very simple flow diagram will explain all:
Stress > releases cortisol > causes blood sugar levels to increase > triggers insulin to be released > sends signals to the body to store fat
Under acute stress the brain requires some 12 percent more energy, leading many of us to reach for sugary snacks. Cortisol reduces your brains ability to control hunger which just leads us to eat and eat in times of stress...and then we eat too much and shove it around the middle.
And when we are stuck in stress, these hormones can't regulate leading us to eat poorly, feel tired, store fat, feel low and impacts our brain functioning.
So if you do one thing today, look to lower your stress. Suppressing it, ignoring it, telling yourself its fine, doesn't stop stress. So speak its language. Show your body it's ok, we are safe, our bodies hormones can go back to normal.
So how do we speak its language?
These are scientifically proven ways to cheat your body into believing everything is ok, allowing us to have a clearer mind and cheat our body into thinking we have defeated that threat:
Physical Exercise. The NUMBER ONE best way. Exercise is self care and it's vital at reducing that stress. It reduces cortisol and adrenaline plus shoves out endorphins that makes us feel good.
Breathing. Controlled breathing goes against the effects of stress like shallow breath and brings down your elevated heart rate. Breathe in for 5, hold for 5, out for 10. Or try a guided meditation.
Social Interaction. Even small talk or chatting to people out and about cheats our body into thinking "the world is safe."
Affection. Hugs, cuddles or kisses with someone you love..and this includes pets. This releases oxytocin, think that warm fuzzy feeling.
Alongside these are getting out into nature, crying, creativity, eating probiotics and foods like walnuts and blueberries (researchers found these reduce blood pressure!), playing a video game and laughter.
Life is always going to be full of stressors. Some can't be controlled, but what we have the power to do is deal with our stress. Deal with your stress first and you'll be able to handle anything life throws at you.
Peace and love,