Chronic Stress is Holding You Back
From Health & Weight Loss
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
Chronic Stress is Making You Fat
As a society, we're more stressed than we've ever been. We're also more out of shape, overweight, obese, and unhealthy than we've ever been. Stress isn't the ONLY reason we're struggling but it's a HUGE contributing factor that we don't give enough time, thought, or work to.
Stress is not just when you feel overwhelmed or pulled in too many directions, stress is a physiological response in your body to TONS of things. Acute stress, like running from a tiger in the jungle, has kept us alive, but chronic stress is slowly killing us. We were not designed to be in a stress response long term, yet that's how most of us live our lives and it's taking a toll. Chronic stress can result in:
- high blood pressure and heart disease
- chronic illness and auto immune disorders
- overweight, obesity, difficulty losing weight
- poor digestion, and impaired gut microbiome
- weak immune function and prone to catching illnesses
- muscle tension and pain
- skin irritations and rashes
- poor recovery from physical activity
If you're struggling to get healthy and lose weight it could be that chronic stress that's holding you back! Listen in to find out how, and what to do about it.
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Show Notes & Transcript:
Welcome back to the podcast, my friends, I'm so happy you're here. If you feel like you're doing all the right things you're eating, right, you're working out all the time, you're always on the move, you're GO, GO going and you're just not losing weight. It could be that stress is holding you back. Stress is way more insidious to your health than you are probably recognizing. And it's having more far reaching effects on your ability to lose weight than you're probably giving it credit for. So today, we're going to talk about how stress might be interfering with your ability to finally just lose the weight and keep it off and what to do about it. Let's go.
Well, welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life at the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health, find food freedom, and finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend are powerful, and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes, let's walk and talk.
You're stressed I'm stressed we're all stressed probably as a world we are more stressed than we've ever been. And when we think about being stressed, we typically think of it as a feeling like a feeling of overwhelm or like just too much or I'm pulled in too many directions. We think of stress as a feeling. But stress is way more than a feeling. Stress is actually a biochemical state in your body. And so if we're really going to look at stress and how it's affecting you, your health and your ability to lose weight, we have to think of it that way, we have to think of stress as a physiological response. So let's start with a quick lesson about what stress is and how it works in your body. This is gonna be just sort of a quick, overarching version of this. So there's two types of stress.
Acute stress is the good kind of stress. That's the stress where primitive you is faced with a Tiger in the Jungle, and your adrenal glands start to release cortisol and adrenaline, we've got to get ready for the fight or flight right, your heart rate increases your muscles tense, your blood is directed away from your extremities and to your brains, you can think faster and to your muscles, you can move faster if you have to, your airways start to constrict, causing you to breathe faster and more shallowly, your digestion slows down, your senses are heightened, your liver releases glycogen into your bloodstream. So you have quick energy, in case you got a flight, you could perform if you needed to superhuman feats to get away from something. And when that stressful event is over, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and sort of returns everything back to baseline back to normal. That is a normal stress response. And thank goodness we have it it has kept us alive for for all of time.
Now the problem then is actually chronic stress. So now imagine that stress response that I just described, but all of the time, it's exhausting honestly, to even think about being in that sort of a state all the time. But we are most of us live in that sort of a state. In situations where the stressor if feels overwhelming or cannot be resolved, it becomes a chronic stressor. And that chronic stress is affecting your health and your ability to lose weight. So to your body stress is stress as stress. Now we like to think of, let's say working out would be good stress, right? I'm stressing my muscles so that they grow bigger and they get stronger. We like to categorize things in our life as good stress, this challenge this amazing opportunity. That's good stress, right? But my sick dog that's bad stress and we like to categorize good and bad stress. Your body does not do that. Your body only knows one kind of stress, stress. The stress is stress and it doesn't matter what kind of stress it is. Your body only sees it one way and only reacts to it one One way.
So stressors to your body can be mental or emotional stressors. Now, remember, this is real stressors, like things that are actually happening in your life or things that you are imagining. So if you are living in a state of fear, if you are standing in the shower, and you are going over an argument that you had with someone two weeks ago, and just repeating, repeating, repeating, that is an imagined stressor, your body is responding to that as a stressor is that as if it's actually happening. So don't forget that it's not just the things that are actually happening in your life that are stressors, it's the things that you imagine will happen, the things that you think about happening, the things that you're afraid that might happen, those all to your body are the same. Okay? That is super, super important, because I really need you to understand your body just sees it as stress, stress, stress, it doesn't matter if it's real, or just happening in your head to your body, it's the same thing. Okay, even exciting things, even things that we would consider good like a promotion or a wedding, all can be very stressful. Stress can be relational. So between you and people you're in a relationship with it can be situational. So it could be just something that's happening right now or something that is repeatedly happening. It stress could be from eating too little. So let's say you go on a diet and you cut way back on food, that could be a major stressor to your body. It also could be eating too much too much food can be a stressor, lack of nutrients. So if you are eating that standard American diet where you're getting a lot of calories, but not a lot of nutrients, that's a major stressor to your body, if you exercise, but don't allow yourself to recover properly. That's a major stressor. If you have had any kind of injury or surgery, or anything that you're trying to recover from, that's a major stressor, lack of sleep, huge stress, or lack of water, enormous stressor, food sensitivities. So maybe you're eating stuff that you are not aware is kind of wrecking your gut lining, and you have a lot of food sensitivities, that is a major stressor to your physiology, blood sugar imbalances. So any way that you are not regulating blood sugar properly is a huge stressor to your body. Any sort of infections, parasitic infections, bacterial infections, underlying toxicity that maybe you don't know about, maybe you have some heavy metals going on. All of those things are highly stressful to your body. So what I want you to hear is that anything your body perceives as stressful is stressful. Okay? So any one of those things just because you think, Oh, well, it's a wedding, you know, it's like, fine, it's a good stress, your body does not see it that way.
Now, if going, if you go through that list for yourself, how many of those things are stressors for you right now? Are you on a diet? Are you getting bad sleep? Are you trying to work out? Because you didn't eat? Well, yesterday? Do you maybe having had an underlying infection that you don't actually know about? Did you drink enough water? Do you have a stressful day at work? Like how many of those things on a daily basis are actually stressing out your body? No wonder it wants to just give up and hold on to the weight. So when you think about stress, I need you to think about not just, oh, I had a stressful day at work. But tomorrow will be better. I need you to think about the total package, I need you to think about all the ways that your body is perceiving stress makes sense.
So then it stands to reason why diets for many reasons don't work. But one of the biggest reasons that we're just going on diets. And that whole mentality of like, Eat less exercise harder doesn't work, especially for women, when we get past about 35. It especially doesn't work for us. Because if we're already emotionally stressed for just many myriad of reasons that are going on in our lives. And then we go on a diet, so we cut calories, which is a major extra stressor. And then we bump up our workouts, which is another major extra stressor on an effort to lose weight. We're actually just shooting ourselves in the foot. It's like the opposite of what we actually probably need to be doing to lose weight. Do you see how this whole eat less exercise harder mentality could totally backfire for us? Because here's what stress is doing in your body. This is why it's keeping you from getting healthy and losing weight, excess cortisol. So remember, stress is this cortisol happening all the time instead of just in the acute stress where Cortisol is released. I have my reaction I get out of the situation and then I bring it back down to normal. Our chronic stress is just this chronically elevated level of cortisol.
Cortisol is an appetite stimulant. It makes you want to eat it, intensifies your hunger and intensifies your cravings. This is one of the reasons why when you feel really emotionally stressed you want to eat comfort food. The cortisol is an appetite stimulus No, take that. And when you are in a chronic stress situation your metabolism actually slows down. We've got a recipe for disaster here. One study in the Journal of bio psych found that women's resting metabolic rate. So the amount of calories they burn in a day was reduced by a total of 104 calories per day when under emotional stress, that was just one stressor, one emotional stressor. Now imagine all the stressors that you are facing 104 calories every single day might not seem like a ton, but that's going to add up. So not only are you more hungry all the time, and you have more cravings, your metabolism is actually slowing down. And this is also due to reduce thyroid production. So chronic stress condition is going to reduce your thyroid production and functioning. If that's already a problem for you, it's now becoming a worse problem for you. The other thing that your body is doing is that calories that are being consumed while your cortisol is high is more likely to be deposited as fat, especially in your midsection. So one of the reasons that women when we hit 35 and higher, we start to get more fat around our midsection. It's that visceral fat and that visceral fat is hormonal fat. Now it has to do with stress hormones, and it has to also do with your your reproductive hormones, that visceral fat is correlated with all kinds of health issues that you do not want. So calories that we are consuming while under chronic stress are more likely to be deposited as fat, especially that really bad dangerous visceral fat in our midsection. chronically elevated cortisol is also increasing your blood sugar levels, which then elevate your insulin levels.
And so this, among other things will stop you from burning fat no matter how much exercise that you're doing. And no matter how much calories you're cutting, chronic stress is a problem. perimenopause after almost every single woman after 35 is struggling with some level of perimenopause or menopause. So I want you to just think of your body as just this whole picture, right? It's not like oh, if I just lost five pounds, or if I just lost 20 pounds, it's there's so many moving pieces in your body and in your life. And you really have to take it as a whole, you really have to look at your entire world, and how that's affecting your health and your ability to lose weight and keep it off. And of course, another thing that chronically elevated cortisol and stress is going to impair is your sleep. Now you know that when you feel stressed out, you don't sleep well. And when you don't sleep well, you're too tired to go work out, you're too tired to move your body and get exercise, you're too tired to make good food choices. And lack of sleep is a major stressor to your body. So no. So not only are you making poor choices, because you're tired, but you are also stressing out your body because you're tired.
I think that's one of the things that we don't really correlate with stress enough is how stress is affecting our ability to make good choices for ourselves. So here's a few examples of how that might look in your life. Let's say you have a high stress job. So at your job, you're pounding coffee and soda all day, that's ultimately going to keep you awake at night, it's going to put you into adrenal fatigue, it's going to keep your cortisol raised like it's causing a problem. Let's say you have some small, demanding humans at home and they make it really hard for you to get exercise in. That's a stressor in your life that's keeping you from making a good choice of getting more exercise in. Let's say you're fighting with your spouse. So you're up at night and you're up at night eating and stressing instead of sleeping. Let's say you're exhausted during the week, so you stop for fast food more than you are cooking at home. Like we don't think about how stress is affecting our ability to make the choices that will move us forward and the direction that we want to go. And so I really want you to start making those connections. Because I think a lot of us are just so used to being in this chronic stress state, that we don't fully recognize how much it's impacting us, not just physiologically, which it definitely is, but also affecting us psychologically, our ability to make those choices that we know are the right choices that would move us forward.
So I really want you to start drawing some connections for yourself here and really start acknowledging, like maybe you're under a lot more stress, or what your body perceives as stress than you think you are. So what are we going to do about all this stress? What are we going to do with this? I've recorded a few different podcasts about stress. One of them is episode 78 And that was about meditation and breathing techniques to reduce stress. One of them is episode 32 called overcome the overwhelm So you can go back and listen to those for some ideas about managing stress. And I'm gonna give you some more here today. The first thing that you need to know for yourself is what are your stressors. So go through all of those things that I listed out before. And just make a list for yourself, make a list of all your stress, all your stress triggers, all the possible stressors in your life. And again, don't make a list of like good stress, bad stress, everything to your body is stress, stress, stress is stress, your body doesn't care if you think it's good or bad, your body just perceives it as stress. So make a list of everything that might be a current possible stressor to your body. And this is just to raise your awareness of what you might be going through right now.
The other thing that you can try is to manage your thoughts. So what you think about stress actually matters and what you think about stress matters to your body, your physiological response will be different depending on your thoughts and emotions. Okay, so let me give you an example. Let's say the stressor that you're dealing with is a big project that you have at work, it's the biggest challenge you've ever faced. Other parts of your life are kind of slipping, because you've been spending so much time on this one project. Okay, so person number one in this stressful situation, they think, Oh, my gosh, I'm so overwhelmed, I'm totally under qualified for this, I'm going to fail. My spouse is mad at me, because I'm working late all the time. I don't know what to do, this is not working, okay. And how they feel then is overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out, and their body is going to react accordingly. Now, Person number two in that same stressful situation with that big project. Person number two is thinking, Wow, what an amazing opportunity. I'm so excited, I get to do this, I'm going to learn so much. I have had really good talks with my spouse. And they really know how much this means to me. And they're being so supportive. And I just, I know I can do it. And they're feeling very challenged, but invigorated, they're feeling nervous, but excited, their physiological response to those feelings are going to be very different. So making sure that you are seeing what could be perceived as a stressful situation as an exciting and non stressful situation, the way you perceive it will determine your body's reaction to it. If I see a tiger in the jungle, and I think what a cute little tiger, I want to pet it. I love cute little tigers, I am not going to have an acute stress response. I am not going to fight or flight. But if I see a tiger in a jungle, and I think, holy crap, it's about to eat me, I am going to have an acute stress response. And I am going to have a spike in cortisol so that I can fight or flight right? Do you see the tiger did not change my perception of the Tiger changed? Do you see what I'm saying your perception matters. So manage your thoughts around your stressors, it's going to be a huge difference maker for you.
The other thing that you can think about is stress management techniques. Now there are so many Stress management techniques that really the key is to find the things that work for you. So maybe it's prayer, maybe it's journaling, maybe it's taking a walk, maybe it's listening to music, maybe it's breathing exercises, like we talked about in episode 78. Maybe it's talking it through with someone, maybe it's working on getting better sleep and making that a bigger goal for yourself. There's tons of ways that you can manage stress, the most important thing is that you do what works for you and you do it consistently. There is no time where it's like, oh, I'm magically stress free, and I don't have to do my breathing today, or I don't need a walk today, you're gonna probably need that every day, life's gonna keep coming at you that's not going to stop, you're going to want to make sure that you are incorporating whatever stress management techniques that you're using into a daily practice. And the last thing that I would tell you about managing stress is that sometimes you just got to stop. Sometimes you have to say no, sometimes you have to quit. Sometimes you have to just remove yourself from that situation. Maybe you have to quit the diet. Maybe you have to quit seeing the trainer for a while and pull back on that stuff because it's too stressful to your body while you're going through this other thing. Maybe you have to quit the job. Maybe you have to figure out how to quit your family for an hour like whatever it is, you probably have to learn how to say no and pull back from some things. Now I know that as a mom and you know someone who tries to build a career, it's very hard to do, but I'm telling you as your friend, you have to do it. You have to figure out how to say no to some stuff. You have to figure out how to just instead of just thinking differently about stressors you have to just remove the stressor altogether, sometimes that is the only way to get yourself to move forward. A lot of times we've talked about, well, I don't know if I've talked about it in the podcast or with clients, but I'll talk about it with you right now.
We talked about slowing down to speed up. And that's what this is slowing down and focusing on the things that are most important. And focusing on taking care of you and focusing on managing and reducing stress, slowing some things down, sometimes you got to stop working out so hard, sometimes you got to stop dieting so hard. Sometimes you got to stop doing whatever so hard, you're going to stop it for a while, so that you can recover so that you can get back at it again later. Sometimes slowing down so you can speed up is the way. So the bottom line here is you really need to be aware of how many stressors are actually adding up for you in your body, the things that your body is perceiving as stress. Be aware of the state of chronic stress that you're in and How little you're probably doing to manage that. And be aware of physiologically how that is impacting your ability to be healthy, to feel energetic to feel good when you wake up in the morning. And to get to a healthy weight and stay there. Stress is having a way bigger effect on you than you probably have given it credit for. So I hope this was really helpful. I hope that you can start to understand the effect of stress. Listen, it's not that your body's broken, your body can always be fixed. Your body can always be healed, but you have to increase your awareness. And then you have to take the steps and you have to be patient and give it enough time. Your body did not get into this state overnight and it will not get out of this state overnight. Okay, my friend now go do something relaxing until we talk again, be well.
Friends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.