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How Stress Can Make You Fat

stressWe 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!

paleo-sexy

Best Exercise for Fat Loss

Best-exercise-for-fat-lossWhat is the best exercise for fat loss: Exercise is not the key to fat loss, diet and the right nutrition are. However if you’re on one of the Paleo Works programs or consuming a similar caveman style diet, high intensity intermittent exercise is the best exercise for fat burn, to improve fitness and can accelerate weight loss, though only when associated with the correct nutrition. This point is key.

What is high intensity intermittent exercise?  Periods of brief intensive exercise interspersed with periods of relative rest.  Not for the faint-hearted true but take a look at this study on the effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women..impressive !

And what we are looking for is the best exercise for fat loss: a method of exercise that delivers.

Cycling, rowing , running, swimming all adapt well to this form of training and all can take place outdoors away from the gym however if you are not fit, very overweight but generally well, it makes sense to build up a basic level of fitness before you start.

Walking is great and gets you out doors, you can build on that, resistance training will strengthen and tone your body.  Build up the intensity to include some light jogging, cycling and soon you will know you ‘[e ready to do more and then work with your body – it’s not rocket science!

How does it work?

It’s simple..intersperse relative rest periods with intense “sprint” periods.  The length of these sprint periods can be built up over time but a  programme might look like this:

Running:

Warm-Up: jog for a couple of minutes then…

Sprint: long and hard at high intensity: push hard for ten seconds

Jog in relative rest for 30 seconds

Pick up the pace again and sprint: long and hard for ten seconds

Back down again gentle jog for 30 seconds

And repeat this cycle for between 6 and 10 sprints

Cool Down with some gentle jogging.

Audrey-HepburnExercising in this way is truly exhilarating.  Try it and see.  Start with one of these sessions per week the build upon the number of sessions and then build up and vary the intensity of the sessions:  How?

Increase the number of sprints, extending the time of the sprints, putting more effort into the sprints, shortening your rest time lengthening the session times – the beauty of this exercise is it is free and it works with you, (outdoors, fresh air) and it is amazing fun with the kids (who love to operate the stop watch and challenge us)

Feel free to adapt this to cycling and rowing: warm up sprint hard on your bike, relative rest, pick up the pace again, sprint hard (12-15 seconds to start) relative rest  (45 seconds) and don’t forget to cool down at the other end.  There are endless variations.  Play with it and see.  And the good news?  You are shredding more fat in less time than any other exercise.  And best of all, anecdotal evidence suggests that this type of exercise does not cause an increase in appetite.

In this way we feel we are moving like our ancestors connecting with our past, tuning into our bodies, working our bodies naturally and feeling alive.

And the science?  A review of High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss concludes that:

“the effect of regular aerobic exercise on body fat is negligible, read The Truth About Exercise; however, other forms of exercise may have a greater impact on body composition. For example, emerging research examining high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) indicates that it may be more effective at reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat than other types of exercise. The mechanisms underlying the fat reduction induced by HIIE, however, are undetermined. Regular HIIE has been shown to significantly increase both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. HIIE also significantly lowers insulin resistance and results in a number of skeletal muscle adaptations that result in enhanced skeletal muscle fat oxidation and improved glucose tolerance.”

This then is the best exercise for fat loss.

Try it and see, tell us what you feel exercising in this way?  We welcome your feedback and to hear of your experiences.

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