When it comes to the subject of weight loss, stress levels are worth examining. If you are trying to lose weight and are dealing with too much stress in your life, your body may be going through processes that sabotage your weight loss efforts. On the other hand, if you are losing weight and not sure why, stress could be the culprit.
Here are four ways that weight loss and stress are related:
1. Stress and Food Cravings
Many people find that they eat when they are under stress. This is when you eat not because you’re hungry but because some emotion such as anger, sadness or frustration is pushing you to reach for food. Usually, you eat when you are stressed because food brings you a sense of comfort. You may have your own comfort foods. Commonly eaten foods to relieve stress are sweets such as chocolate, ice cream, cookies or candy. Salty and fatty foods such as potato chips and pizza are also common foods. These foods contain higher fat and salt content and are generally lacking in nutrition. This leads to consuming an excess of calories and, ultimately, weight gain.
2. Stress Hormones and Weight Gain
When you are under a great deal of stress, your body releases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. The release of cortisol has been linked with the buildup of abdominal fat. In one study, slim women gained weight due to their inability to deal with stressful life conditions. Being under a great deal of stress causes physiological changes that can lead to cravings and a change in eating patterns.
3. Stress and Slow Metabolism
When your body releases an excess of cortisol, this interferes with your metabolic processes. The release of stress hormones has been linked with a slowing down of the metabolism. So when you are dealing with a lot of stress, you may be eating the same amount of food as before but not burning off as many calories as you used to.
4. Stress and Appetite Loss
Stress is generally associated with weight gain because of the changes it creates in your body and the cravings it results in. However, in some cases, stress may lead to a loss of appetite and, therefore, weight loss. In other cases, stress may overstimulate the thyroid gland leading to not only greater appetite but also faster burning off of those calories.
If you are dealing with a lot of stress and find that it is interfering with your weight loss efforts, the best thing to do is to tune into why you are eating. Ask yourself before you snack or sit down for a meal whether you are truly hungry. If you realize that you are stressed, replace food with an activity that reduces your stress and makes you feel better. Walking, hanging out with friends, meditation or reading a good book are just a few options.
What to Do When You’re Motivation Is Down
Motivation can come and go. But your long-term goals may not have changed. Here’s some tips to stay on track even when your motivation has ebbed.
Motivation is defined as the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. In terms of health and fitness, it may be your desire to get fit has you willingly going to the gym and make healthier choices at restaurants. Sometimes that motivation is really high and it feels like no big deal to do those things. But often, it is more of an ebb and flow. The motivation can come and go at odd times. And it makes it more challenging to stick to your goals.
Take a Step Back
It’s okay to take a step back and take a little time off from the gym. Maybe your body, or mind, needs it. Take a day or two off and get some rest. Practice some self-care and relax a little. The goal is not to take weeks or months off, but just enough time that you are excited to get back to those workouts or healthy habits.
Re-evaluate Your Goals
Maybe it’s time to sit down and take a look at your long-term goals again. Have you written them out? If not, now’s the time to do it. Healthy weight, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease or diabetes, improved endurance to keep up with the kids, taking that trip to Italy, feeling more energetic or just looking good can all go on the list. These are your goals and they should be important to you — and motivating.
Give Yourself a Timeline
Many of us make goals, but don’t really give ourselves a time frame for them. Well, add that in! If one of your goals is to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, make a doctor’s appointment to have that checked in a month or two. Want to play outside with the kids in the summer? Put that date down and what you will do with your kids when you’re feeling good and energetic. Want to take a trip or do a hike? Put a date on it and book it. These will give you more motivation to stick to your healthy habits and get things done.
Change it Up
It’s possible that you’re not motivated to eat healthily or go to the gym because you’re bored with what you’ve been doing. Hit the internet and look up some new options for meals and snacks. Then get to the store and have those ingredients prepped and ready to go. Try a new class or overhaul your workout routine. You can also find a workout buddy or hire yourself a trainer. A few sessions will get you working hard and might give you some new ideas.
Don’t Give Up
The bottom line is that while motivation may be low, your goals and health are still important. It’s okay to re-evaluate and change things up, but don’t give up on yourself!