Tom, the personal trainer who founded Waite Training in Leeds has many tips to help you get started on working for your fitness goals.
Are you looking to lose some weight and burn fat? Are you doing your best to maintain a healthy diet and working out but can't seem to lose weight for some reason? If yes, then chances are you might be dealing with chronic stress, and it's jeopardising your weight loss goals.
In this article, a personal trainer in Leeds will take you through the potential causes of stress, how that impacts your fat loss and what you can do to fix it.
What is stress?
Everyone, regardless of age, undergoes some form of stress in their lives. Some people quite regularly, others may occasionally experience it. There's a natural stress response built in our body that will kick in whenever you are in a situation that is threatening your life or is perceived as one. The mechanism that raises your heart rate and prompts your body to produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol is there to protect you and act quickly to deal with that threat.
For example, it was sure handy for our ancestors s they could escape danger when hunting or running from a Mammut. It also comes in handy when you're in an actual life-threatening situation so you can prevent a car accident or get away from a scary and giant dog or person even. The way it works is that when the danger is gone, your body's hormone levels go back to normal, and you can carry on living your life as usual.
However, many other factors in our modern lives can trigger a stress response, and when it becomes our body's new standard and lasts for an extended period, we call it chronic stress. Now that is not helpful for us at all.
Potential Causes of Chronic Stress
Most times, you will be aware when you're stressed when it's caused by something evident like illness, finances, relationship problems, work, losing a loved one.
However, there are some other stressors that you might not even realise and affect your body on a chemical level: lack of sleep, emotional strain, too much exercise, too little exercise, unhealthy foods in your diet, too much noise or light all the time, an underlying health issue that doesn't have apparent symptoms to name a few.
How do people deal with stress?
Most people assume that weight loss is mainly physical, but it can be psychosocial in reality. When you're stressed, your body goes into one of two modes: fight or flight. For most people, it's flight. And flight isn't a literal thing. It is usually symbolic, often representing an escape route or option for most people.
There are a few ways I see people trying to deal with stress, and sadly none of them is particularly aiding their desire to achieve a leaner physique. Stress or emotional eating is the biggest one for people, especially women trying to lose weight. Then there's drinking alcohol too often, taking drugs that aren't prescribed or recommended by doctors or even sinking into the couch and binge-watching Netflix instead of going for a walk or meeting with loved ones. We'll focus on the habits within my scope as a personal trainer.
Consumption of Junk Foods
Some people seek out comfort foods or overly sweet foods to feel better and get some reprieve from their "suffering". Unfortunately, most comfort foods are loaded with calories while containing few nutrients. This means that no matter how much you eat them, your body won't receive the nourishment it needs to function, let alone exercise.
So, it doesn't matter if you burned 200 calories during your morning workout. Taking a small cup of ice cream during the same day will replace those calories – 100g of ice cream contains 201 calories - rendering all your workouts moot from the point of weight loss.
Stress is often linked to anxiety and depression. People who are worried about a perceived vital issue in their life might find that they cannot get a whole night's sleep. Many struggles with falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night. Others might find that they sleep 8-10hours even but still feel tired all day which is likely because the quality of their sleep is not sufficient.
Sleep deprivation further adds to your stress levels. So, it isn't enough that you're generally stressed out about something, you don't sleep well as a result, and then your body becomes even more stressed. It's a vicious cycle that isn't easy to break, and you'll see in a moment how it affects your fat loss goals.
We already mentioned the hormone called cortisol. The more stressed you are, the more likely your sensitive hormone balance gets out of whack because your body produces more cortisol. Studies show a correlation between high cortisol levels and abdominal fat distribution.
When cortisol is present in large quantities in the body, your body's glucose production will also increase. The excess glucose your body doesn't use will be metabolised into fat and stored as body fat.
So, if you've been suffering from some form of sleep deprivation, you need to find ways to get enough and quality sleep. There are a couple of strategies to improve your daily sleep routine to help you get the recommended 7-9 hours of quality sleep your body needs. There's also another tool in your boot when you want to manage your stress levels, and that's the right amount and type of physical activity.
A Note About Exercise Motivation and Benefits
For many, exercise is the last thing on their minds when worried or stressed. And that's understandable. Others might even force themselves to hit the gym harder and push the limits of their bodies further. Neither approach is excellent to bring down the stress level, though.
Beware that if you already train 3-5 times a week, putting yourself through high-intensity strenuous workout sessions, the solution isn't to increase that. It might even be beneficial to drop down to 2 per week for a few weeks as vigorous exercise is a stress factor for your body.
Focusing on recreational and recovery activities like walking, stretching, yoga, or even swimming will do a better job here. Or go out to the woods and hike for a few hours. That will ought to promote better sleep and relieve anxiety and stress.
Non-Exercise Stress-Management Strategies
So, if you're at a point where you feel you're about to hit a wall, you might want to stop and think about what's next. Eventually, you'll burn out, and it will be far more challenging to come back from there. So, here are a few ideas for you to keep your stress levels under control.
Stress is part of our everyday lives, especially in a busy city like Leeds. There is no point in telling you to get rid of everything that causes you stress because you'd likely need to move into a cave with your loved ones, and you'd still stress about growing your veggies and hunting for meat.
Jokes aside, the best strategy here is to develop habits that will help you cope, release and recover from the effects of stress and then repeat them daily. If you have any questions on how to include exercise into your routine in a balanced way while trying to lose weight, feel free to get in touch!