Let’s tell a story. A very common story. You pull out your all time, hands down, favourite pair of jeans one ordinarily normal day – the same pair you’ve worn 100 times before, yet they feel that much tighter. You swear they fit ok yesterday but today it is a different story. Truth is, that you’ve been stressed at work, your mum keeps ringing but you haven’t had time to call her back, and you feel like you’re a little (or a whole lot) disconnected from life. ou decide to kick it up a notch in your exercise regime. Clearly, at least according to your jeans, you’ve been doing way too much eating and not enough moving. The only logical explanation is that you’ve spent too much time shoveling food in your mouth and not enough time participating in grueling workouts. Or is it?
You decide to kick it up a notch in your exercise regime. Clearly, at least according to your jeans, you’ve been doing way too much eating and not enough moving. The only logical explanation is that you’ve spent too much time shoveling food in your mouth and not enough time participating in grueling workouts. Or is it?
So often we blame the symptom of a problem, but pay very little attention to the root cause of the issue. Weight gain is a perfect example of this. We gain weight and we turn to exercise as a means to shed the extra kilos. We hit the pavement, up the time spent sweating it out and so often, we see very little change. Often we see the opposite – you might be relieved to know, it’s not just you – many of us respond in the same way.
The likelihood is, your weight gain has nothing to do with the amount of time you’re (not) spending on the treadmill. Your weight gain is actually the symptom, not the problem.
The sad reality is, over-exercising and spending too much time slugging it out at the gym may actually be having the opposite effect to what you’re aiming for when it comes to healthy weight loss. For many of us, stress is an instant weight loader. We stress, our fat cells get the message and make more because our fight or flight mode sets the body into panic. Your body thinks you’re headed into a famine (aka stress) and it does everything in its power to prepare you for it. Your insides are smarter than you – know this much.
As your body is busy getting you ready for the stressful times to come, your fat cells replicate and your body follows suit, meaning you begin to gain weight. Stress sadly does this and may be at the crux of your unwanted kilograms.
Further to this, recent studies have found that increasing exercise may be considered a ‘stressor’ to the body, and cause you to eat more by increasing your levels of ghrelin – the hunger hormone. Not to mention the fact some of us often ‘reward ourselves’ for hard work; we go hard at the gym and see it fit to indulge once we’re done.
This isn’t the only facet to hormones being associated with weight gain. When we place our body under stress, cortisol and adrenaline are released in a bid to save us from near and impending danger. This is all well and good if we need to move away from an oncoming car or are being held at gunpoint. Fact is however, that’s not a likely everyday occurrence and stress is a more the run of the mill, in the background situation. But what’s more annoying is that cortisol shuts down sex hormones, in a bid to save you, this means it may suppresses progesterone (the hormone we need to ovulate) allowing oestrogen to continue to rise. High oestrogen can also be associated with weight gain alongside a host of other symptoms including anxiety, depression, PCOS, and more.
Fact is, that any form of excess stress can see us packing on the pounds, especially when we are operating from a place of fatigue or exhaustion, this is quite often the opposite to what we are aiming for.
So if you find yourself feeling as if you’re spilling out of your favourite pants, we’ve a few handy helping tips to get you back to comfort in little time. Of course, there is no quick-fix to healthy weight loss, but slow and steady is key – stress-free and all!
Get your digestion firing.
An exhausted and tired digestive system may be at the crux of your weight gain, simply because your body can’t digest properly. Draw on the benefits of Chinese Medicine and get your gut firing to maximize absorption.
Sleep for health.
If you are tired, rest. Research suggests that when we are tired we release more hunger hormones to help the body cope. Sleeping may be your secret weapon to maintaining healthy weight.
There are thousands of factors in our day to day life that may stress us, but only one thing can reset the fight or flight response and that is diaphragmic breath. 5 deep breaths especially before eating can be enough to switch us into rest and digest. When we are relaxed and ready to eat, we do a much better job of it!
Exercise smarter and not harder.
Short sharp bursts of exercise are enough to get cortisol moving but not enough to stress the body. 20 minutes of medium to high intensity ticks the boxes.
Written by TCM Doctor, Nat Kringoudis.