Tag: stress

Could Stress be Behind Your Weight Loss Failures?

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I can do everything right, eat healthy, portion control, go to the gym three times a week, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I have been interval training several times a week for over a year now and I have only lost six pounds. I eat a lot of fish, vegetables and whole grains, try to limit my carbs and never indulge in seconds, but none of it seems to matter. How can this be?

I went to the gym today to do my interval training and decided I was going to take it a little easier just to be on the safe side. I recently had the flu, which I think is usually a sign from your body that you need to slow down. Yesterday, I woke up with a lot of neck and back pain, which had improved today, but was far from gone. And I happened to read my horoscope for the day which said to be careful not to hurt yourself from too much physical activity. I took these things as a sign and let my body dictate how fast it wanted to go during the intense periods of the interval training.

When I was done, I realized how good I felt when I didn’t push my body to the breaking point. Then I realized how stressed I must normally be when I am forcing myself to keep going at the max speed possible. How my body yells at me that it is sore and tired and needs to stop and I tell it to keep going. If just activating the stress chemicals in our body can stimulate the fight or flight response of running from a predator, how much worse it must be when you are actually RUNNING and not allowing yourself to stop! It probably convinces your body you are in immediate danger and not just wary of a possible threat.

When we exercise because we want to get healthy or want to lose weight and are not just doing it out of sheer love and desire, it can be rather stressful. But we are told that we must force ourselves to do it and persevere. So when our body doesn’t seem to want to cooperate, we remind ourselves that it is “mind over matter”, but what we really mean is “mind over body” and we want to prove that our brain is in charge and we have enough will power to push our body to continue.

Meanwhile, I wonder how with all of this exercise, my belly fat just will not go down. Probably because of all of the cortisol resulting from the stress of the exercise itself! I’m not saying that the answer is to stop going to the gym. But maybe if I allow my body to dictate how fast is fast enough, instead of just pushing it as far as it will go, time after time, I just might start seeing a better result.

With all that stress from simply exercising, image how much more stress dieting must cause. We all know that panicky feeling when our stomach starts growling and we don’t have immediate access to food. Our survival instincts kick in. Which obviously, is no way to live. But even if you are not on a starvation diet and don’t experience that constantly, it’s stressful if you do not allow yourself to eat what you want. You resist that donut at work and then stress so much about not eating it, that you might as well have just eaten it. Because all of that cortisol has now flooded your body and is at work creating more body fat.

I think EFT can be helpful for these things, as well. When I was reflecting on how much stress I was putting on my body all of the time with the interval training, I had a memory flash from my childhood. I pictured how awful it was when I had to run in a race on “field day” each year. Forget about always being last, but it took all of my strength even just to finish. My side would feel like someone was stabbing me and my legs wouldn’t want to move anymore, but the teachers would make me go the whole distance. There was nothing I hated more than running. And now I am voluntarily running on an elliptical, pushing myself to the limit. No wonder my stress is high and I can’t seem to rid myself of my belly fat. I will definitely have to do some “tapping” on those childhood experiences.

So Much STRESS, So Little Time

Have you ever thought about how much stress we experience throughout every single day? And the truly crazy thing is that we almost wear it as a badge of honor. Like if we are not crazy busy and stressed, we are wasting what precious little time we have on this Earth. To be a worthwhile person, we have to fill every second of every day with something. When you think about everything you do, is it all really necessary? I know people who vacuum, mop, dust, etc. EVERY SINGLE DAY, in addition to having a full time job. While it’s nice to have a clean, tidy house, is all that effort really worth it? Maybe if you find cleaning to be relaxing, it is. But otherwise, you are just putting a lot of undue pressure on yourself.

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I realized something. I was getting my husband’s and my lunches together and it was a few minutes after when I normally leave for work. I was running late! The stress started to kick in, when I stopped myself. I am 15 minutes early for work every day. That is my “on time”. When I am running really late for work, guess what? I am exactly on time. 15 minutes late for me is actually right on time. Why do I instill these false deadlines in my head and allow myself to get stressed over nothing?

Then when I left for work today, I did what I normally do. I put my stuff in the passenger seat and closed the door to walk around to the driver’s side. But this morning, as I did this, I heard a beep. My car somehow locked itself with my car key, house key and phone in it! I have a keyless entry, so it should unlock just by my pulling on the handle. But, of course, it did not. I was locked out of my car, locked out of my house and didn’t have my cell phone. I managed to not panic and stay calm. Worst case scenario, I would eventually find a way to call a locksmith to get into my car (do they still do that?) and it would just be a minor inconvenience. I would be late to work and have to spend some money on the locksmith, but all would be ok in the end.

I took a breath and remembered that I have a spare key in the house. My husband was in the shower, so I hit the doorbell a few times, which also got the dogs barking. Thankfully he heard the commotion and let me in. I got the spare key and went outside. I hit the button to unlock my door and nothing happened. I felt the stress wanting to kick in, but I pushed it down. Then I remembered (silly me) that when you press a button on my key fob, it has an actual physical key; imagine that! So I manually unlocked the door with my dead spare key and managed to get to work on time.

Stress has the ability to make us dumb. It sends the blood away from our brain and to our extremities, so we can run away from the predator chasing us. The problem is that our stressors are no longer grizzly bears looking for lunch, they are problems that we need our brain to solve. So losing our ability to think clearly is the last thing we need! But our bodies take a very long time to evolve and we are still set up with a fight or flight response. Unfortunately, this response is actually triggered to some extent all day long with every negative thought or worry we have. Our brain is set up to identify all possible dangers in order to keep us alive. And then when it is aware of a possible danger, it prepares to fight it. It is far safer to assume that every bush is hiding a hungry grizzly bear than not. But since our problems are no longer life threatening, this isn’t helpful to us anymore.

To make it even worse, when our brain is stressed and firing stress hormones into our body, our other systems that are in charge of healing, fertility, etc. shut down. When you are running from the bear, the most important thing is to get away. You can worry about healing and passing on your genes to new generations once you are safe. But are we ever “safe” anymore?

It’s a catch 22. You get sick because you are stressed all of the time. And then because you are sick, you stress out even more. We set up these arbitrary expectations and then beat ourselves up when we have a miss. So what can we do? When you feel that stress or panic popping up, just stop, take a breath and ask yourself if you are physically in immediate danger. If not, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Even if it’s something that causes you to feel more stress like you’ll be late for work or you will have to spend money, ask yourself this: Then what will happen next? Will you lose your job if you are late? Will you lose your house because you don’t have enough money to pay both bills? A month from now, will this event still have an impact on your life? If the answer is no to all of these questions, then why are you freaking out? Just calm yourself down and know that all will be well. And once you are calm, finding a solution to your problem will be much easier.

As for the constant stream of negative thoughts and “what if’s?”, try to catch yourself and change the subject in your head. Try meditating, positive affirmations, acupressure, EFT, or anything that relaxes you. I’m sure you can see how imperative it is to try your best to stay positive and not let your outdated fight or flight response get the better of you. I wish you good luck and good thoughts.