Stress – I keep seeing that it makes me fat but why?
In the split second that we experience a stressful situation cortisol is called upon and it’s job is to prepare us for action. This means it demands immediate energy for our needs, so it stops our muscles and fat cells storing any more energy (after all we need it right now!) and demands amino acids from muscles to be converted into immediate glucose energy. Finally it stimulates fat cells to breakdown into fatty acids. All of this means that there is more readily available energy circulating through our body because we need it for running or fighting.
However what does this mean when we are sat in the office with a grumpy customer on the ‘phone? Or our child has pushed us over the edge just one too many times? We don’t need extra energy to deal with this, we won’t be asking more of our body by dealing with these stresses and yet our bodies respond in the same way as if it was life threatening.
Many of us will keep this cycle of stress going several times a day and it takes a heavy toll on our bodies. The long term deluge of cortisol can rapidly lead to a breakdown of our metabolism. We’ll get increased blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. We’ll also see a reduction in muscle tissue, memory, metabolism and therefore an increase in weight gain.
Added to this already catastrophic combination of being all stressed out and no outlet we get the double whammy of an increase in appetite after a stressful episode to refuel from the ‘event’. So it’s not at all uncommon for people to crave sugar, salt, carbohydrates and calorie dense foods after a stressful time.
How often do you find yourself in the kitchen or at the sweet machine at work getting a Kit-Kat or packet of crisps when something hasn’t gone to plan?
So what’s the answer? Of course stress management techniques will work and there are many people around who will help you to downshift, make time and kick back. However, for many of us this isn’t a real option and we need to make appropriate changes that mean we keep our jobs and stay in our relationships whilst managing our stress better.
Here are some ideas, some are mine and some I’ve seen others practice successfully
- Know what you are dealing with. What stresses you? Write a list of the things that push your buttons. It might be times of day, hunger, anger, pain, guilt, your boss, your partner, your mum, not having enough money, not feeling good enough…whatever it is recognise it to know what the problems are – just don’t see it as worse than it is. You’ve got enough stress already!
- Once you can see the problems decide if there are any you can deal with instantly. For example when my daughters were younger I used to get particularly frustrated with them for playing up if I was on the ‘phone when they came home from school. I decided to turn my ‘phone off between 15.15 and 16.00 and that was enough time for them to come in, have a snack, chat with me about their day and then get on without me again. They then didn’t bother if I had to take calls later in the afternoon. Simple win. What could you change quickly?
- Those things that you have to do, can you prepare for them? Do you need to limit your time with someone? Have their calls go straight through to voice mail? Deal with people when you know you’re not hungry, ratty or tired?
- Un-follow people on social media who you let wind you up! Maybe they are negative all the time, maybe they are doing better than you and you don’t like it, maybe you stalk them to see what they’re up to. Whatever it is, removing them from your news feed by un-following them allows you some personal freedom. What you don’t see, you don’t care about.
- Decide on what you’ll allow yourself to eat when things turn bad. Eating a whole packet of biscuits when you really wanted chocolate but then eating chocolate anyway is not a good feeling. I am not condoning eating chocolate every time you feel a bit peeved, but allowing yourself one thing may help address any problems with portion control 🙂
One of our Fit Campers made a batch of ‘healthy fridge fudge’ and allowed herself some when she needed a fix. It changed her outlook to food and binging and allowed her an outlet for when time got stressy.
- Only check email a few times a day. If it was important they would have called.
- When overheated beyond all recognition take yourself off somewhere and do some deep breathing. It’s why smokers think a cigarette is a good idea when they’re stressed. It’s the deep breathing that calms them down. Get outside, find a quiet place, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. It really is amazing how quickly you can be rational again.
- Take time for you each day – even 5 minutes. You have to do this to keep you sane. Once you have programmed 5 minutes into your day, move up to 10. Aim for 30 minutes of quiet you-time each day.
- If you do have the luxury of actively doing something when you get wound up, do it. Maybe running up and downstairs a few times or doing jump jacks or skipping or something that dissipates the prickly feeling of anxiety when stressed. All you’re doing is deep breathing, but it helps!
- So much easier written than done, but learn to let it go. Dwelling on something that has happened, or worse, hasn’t happened, is only damaging you. If it’s happened there is nothing that can go back and change it. If it’s not happened…well, it’s not happened! Visualise the perfect solution rather than a stressful one.
Tomorrow I’ll share with you the sneaky enzyme that sabotages our best weight loss efforts despite our stress levels being under control.