We seriously underestimate the effect on stress on our lives and how stress can make you fat, period.
And we especially underestimate the effect of stress on our bodies and our diet and the impact this can have on maintaining weight loss.
Here is an example. Not long ago some friends of ours were forced to down size, losing out on a car. This forced a re-think on how to get to work. Luckily this did not take too long as the only possible answer was to walk. Ever a glass half full person, this enforced “walk” was entered into with a positive mind set and a belief that the additional exercise would help sustain weight loss. To arrive at work on time at 8.30 am it was necessary to leave at 7.45am. The upshot of this was the family’s three children had to be woken up earlier and fed breakfast (a good healthy paleo style meal) much earlier than had been the previous case. OK, anyone out there tried to wake up three hormonal teenage kids around 6.45 am? Kind a stressful?
There followed the long 45 minute walk (down hill all the way in the morning), a full day’s work and a very long walk back up a very long lonely hill, carrying heavy shopping bags in the evening before cooking a supper for the family and dealing with all the other items that come along with well, just having a family really: homework, clothes washing, (mum have got PE tomorrow and no kit) and the ubiquitous letter produced usually around bedtime requesting “Johnny” attend school tomorrow in Mexican fancy dress as we are learning about south american food – oh and if you could also supply a selection of Mexican food to snack on (no nuts) that would be greatly appreciated. You guessed it, more stress.
And stress has a curious effect on the body. We have an in-built stress response. It’s called fight or flight: stand your ground or run – a complicated set of physiological reactions that ultimately keep you alive in a dangerous situation. For our ancestors this was an absolute necessity. Imagine a sabre-toothed tiger coming at you. For us, stress produces a reaction in our bodies which can be boiled down to one single thing: a desire to over eat. Huh? Here’s the how and the why
Now combine this with our friend’s experience of walking to work. A steady cardio workout – only it wasn’t really – it was draining, exhausting and stressful right through winter in any weather: rain, snow, sleet or shine. And this coupled with the very real financial difficulties, the boiling sense of resentment against those who had cars, the sheer physical exhaustion from walking one and a half hours everyday out of necessity not choice caused a depressing reoccurrence of overeating and weight gain. Because the bottom line is: cardio exercise, steady raised heart beat (and it often was due to the run to get to work on time when late and the physical effort of trawling those bags uphill) made her hungry.
What we write here is not earth shattering more common sense. We simply re-direct the mirror for you to shine into your own life and discover where you might be experiencing stress. The average person swims in a sea of small stresses every day. As a result, that fight of flight response is constantly being triggered. Cortisol levels become chronically elevated and blood sugar is constantly mobilized for energy. And when you don’t burn that sugar and you over eat to feed that craving for sugar triggered by the hormonal response and drop in blood sugar that has followed the adrenal rush ……you know the answer already, it gets stored as fat.
So to shift the fat, shift the stress. Take a note book and pen and make that journey easy for yourself. Make an action plan, go on , now: do it.
And our friends? Well it’s not been a straight forward path to lose that regained weight. Life is a constant journey of renewal and movement forward but never forget the joy a quick peak back can bring to remind you of just how far you’ve come.
So we wrote a plan together: putting my friend first. The children were given alarm clocks and told it was their responsibility to get out of bed and find breakfast. Food choices were left out the night before and there was no chasing. The husband was given a shopping list along with the car and asked to bring the items home with him from work or the shopping was done the night before. If anything was forgotten it was forgotten: life goes on regardless and just like that, life found its own balance for each of them. And the good news? Well we heard from our friend only the other week. A new job brought with it a higher salary and both stopped by last weekend to show us her new car!