Want to lose weight? Get into better shape? Feel energetic and healthy and full of vitality?
The solution is not another diet or training program. Rather it is to combat your stress levels and your energy levels. Pretty much everything that isn’t right in your life can be boiled down to these two things and once you start to combat them both, you’ll find that life starts improving. Here we will look at why stress hormones and weight gain are such big issues and why they are so symptomatic of the general problems that exist with the world today.
Stress Directly Leads to Weight Gain
The most obvious and direct link between stress hormones and weight gain is the way in which these hormones directly lead to the body storing more fat. When your system is high in cortisol – one of the main stress hormones – this can actually increase weight gain.
The reason for this is that cortisol is responsible for the regulation of blood sugar levels among other things. It stimulates the release of insulin which in turn results in the body using up the sugar in its system. The idea behind this is that if we were facing a confrontation (a more classic trigger of stress) we would need that extra energy.
Unfortunately though, these days our stress tends to be a lot more abstract. No longer are we stressed because there’s a hulking bear chasing us. Instead that bear is our boss and instead of eating us, they’re threatening to make us work with Sally from accounting.
As such, the body then uses up all that blood sugar but it doesn’t go anywhere and this can then lead to weight gain. On top of that, studies suggest that the same stress hormones might also result in fat being more likely to get deposited around the stomach rather than the hips – right where we don’t want it in other words. This fat is often referred to as ‘toxic fat’ as it is the type of fat most likely to lead to heart problems.
On top of all that, stress hormones and weight gain are connected because stress makes us hungry. Once your body has used up all the sugar in your blood, this then sends a signal to your brain saying you need more food and thus you become more likely to eat.
It’s worse than that though. Stress is also likely to cause low mood and energy and even depression. This all weakens our self-control and our willpower and thus we end up looking for ‘comfort food’. This is why we tend to eat ice-cream when we’ve been dumped. It’s also why that bread and butter pudding is so tempting after a hard day.
Worse still, stress makes us far less likely to exercise. If you come home from work and you’re stressed, then you’ll find that you end up crashing out on the couch and staring at Trisha instead of doing anything productive like exercising, catching up on correspondence or tidying the house.
The point is that stress leaves us feeling exhausted. That’s because it can lead to adrenal fatigue, meaning that the body has produced so many ‘get up and go’ hormones that it’s eventually run out leaving us as an empty husk. Meanwhile, we come to associate our daily activities with feelings of emptiness and tiredness and this in turn leaves us with little interest in doing anything.
This is actually only likely to lead to a vicious cycle. Exercise is one of the few things that most of us could use to combat stress and weight gain (exercise fixes the metabolism and triggers the result of feel-good hormones) and putting off important tasks will only cause you to feel more stressed and anxious.
And as you gain weight, your health and your energy levels will only decline further. This is the modern dilemma and it’s why so many of us spend so much of our time feeling tired, put upon and lethargic.
With all this in mind then, how do you solve the problem?
How to Break the Cycle
The way most people will try and break this cycle is by starting a new diet and a new training regime. Unfortunately, this is very often destined to failure right from the offset.
Here’s the thing: if you were able to start doing a highly energetic training regime on top of your current routine and if you were able to eat better – you already would be. No one chooses to be overweight and tired all the time, so if that describes your current state of play then it means that you need help getting out of that rut. If you’re already exhausted, how do you expect to be able to successful take on an additional 5 hours a week of intensive exercise? Or to suddenly stop eating any of that comforting food that normally gets you through your long weeks?
One way to do this is to start with some therapy for your stress or to change something drastic in your life. A lot of people are only as tired and stressed as they are because of their jobs. If you have a daily commute of one hour each way only to work in a stressful environment for 8 hours straight, then no wonder you’re snacking and crashing! Often the only way to get into shape is to quit your job. It sounds drastic but what could be more important than your health?
The other approach to take is to think about the idea of ‘kaizen’. Kaizen refers to the process of making small changes to your lifestyle in a bid to bring about large changes. By making lots of small, consistent changes, these can all add up to something much bigger and much more profound. This means making little changes that will alleviate just that bit more stress and that will help to give you that bit much more energy. The idea here is to ‘chip away’ at that vicious cycle and to start getting back to a healthy place.
One very powerful way to do this is to eat more fruit. It’s a simple and small change but the vitamins and minerals you will get from doing this will drastically increase your focus, energy levels and mood. The same goes for protein which is what our brain makes neurotransmitters out of. Add some eggs and tropical fruits to your diet with perhaps some organ meat and salad and you will start to feel much healthier and your snacking and lying around will both be reduced as a result.
Another option is to sleep just a little bit more. Again, this might seem very small but the impact is often profound. By sleeping longer hours, you will find that you automatically wake up earlier and have much more time and energy as a result. Sleep is one of the very best tonics for stress and also helps you to burn fat and build muscle.
Walking to work will get you more sunlight on the nice days as well as a little more exercise and leaving early on a Friday will make the whole week more bearable. Start making these small changes and you will increase your energy, thus decreasing stress and thus improving your body composition. Once you start to feel healthy, energetic and positive then you can start to add those impressive training routines!