Where there is stubborn weight, there is stress holding onto it. Over a short time, a stress response can be beneficial to your body by heightening your senses and ensuring survival; however, long-lasting periods of stress can have negative implications for your health. It can be caused by changes in your life, too much or too little exercise, work, late hours, lack of sleep, medications, chronic illnesses, or personal conflict.
In response to stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol. While in small doses this primal hormone can improve your chances of survival, it also raises your chances of developing strokes, inflammatory diseases, and weight gain. This weight gain occurs because during times of stress your body slows your metabolism (ie. the rate at which energy is burned) and promotes fat storage.
Sleep it off. Staying up late or waking too early can trigger a release of cortisol, as well as tricking you into thinking you’re hungry. If you sleep less than 6 hours a night chances are you are placing unnecessary stress on your body, raising your cortisol levels and putting yourself at risk of developing illnesses and gaining fat.
Your Actions. Conquer the stress in your life. Try deep breathing, a stretching program, sleep 7 – 9 hours each night, fuel your body with healthy foods, avoid cigarettes, limit alcohol or get a message.
2. Caloric Surplus
Eating too many calories is the number one reason why people struggle to lose fat. If you are eating more calories (ie. energy) than your body uses in a day, you will gain weight. It doesn’t matter if those calories come from kale, avocados, hamburgers, or gypsy tears – too many calories is simply too many calories.
You may be thinking, “not all calories are created equal”. A calorie is a calorie. 100 calories of potato chips have the same amount of calories as 100 calories of spinach. What is more accurate to say is that not all foods are created equal. We know that we will get far more nutrients and vitamins from the spinach, while the potato chips would fill you with unhealthy trans fats and processed food. Likewise, someone trying to improve their strength will benefit far more from 200 calories of protein, rather than 200 calories of popcorn. Don’t overthink it. If your goal is to lose fat, start by focusing on your calorie intake, then specialize from there.
Your Action. Calculate your ideal caloric intake and meticulously track your calories for 1 week to discover if you are in a caloric surplus.
Daily Caloric Intake = (your body weight in lbs) x (10)
Keep in mind that women should eat no less than 1200 calories per day and men, no less than 1800 calories.
Note – this is advice for the general population and is not intended for athletes, bodybuilders, those with medical conditions, or those under the direction of a doctor/specialist.
Nearly 70% of your body is water, helping to regulate body temperature, eliminate waste, aid digestion, transport nutrients, keep energy high, and promote fat metabolism. If your water intake drops even slightly, you will see all these actions suffer. If you are dehydrated, the organs responsible for metabolizing fats become sluggish and function in a reduced capacity. This lack of fat metabolism, due to dehydration, could be why you are training hard, but failing to see results.
Decoding Bloat. Our body is programmed with the survival response of “hold on to what you don’t get consistently”. This “survival mode” is why we experience weight gain with fasting or extreme calorie restriction; our body is starving and storing anything it gets. The same thing occurs with water. When we aren’t taking in enough water, our body’s natural response is to store it out of fear that it won’t be available in the future. This is water retention and one of the reasons why you may experience bloating. The solution is simple, drink more water regularly. Doing this will teach your body that there will always be water coming in so there’s no need to store it.
Your Action. It is recommended to have 0.5 oz – 1.0 oz per pound of body weight, each day.
4. Nutritient Deficiency
Keeping busy with life at work and home can lead you to nutrient deficiencies. Whether it is work, family, or exercise, your environment demands a lot from you. You may believe that your diet is providing you with all the essential nutrients, but more often than not your diet will fail to give your body what it needs. The cheapest and most readily available foods are typically stripped of their nutrients and loaded with chemicals to extend the shelf life.
You may currently be experiencing a nutrient deficiency without feeling like it. This is because over time your body has grown accustomed to functioning on less than optimal nutrient levels. Imagine how much you could do or the energy you could have if you gave your body more of what it needs each day.
Your Action. Choose whole foods. Vegetables, fruits, and grains that have been processed away from their natural state have likely been stripped of some (or all) of their nutrients. When possible, aim to eat foods in as close to their natural form, as possible. Opt for an apple instead of applesauce, or bell peppers and cucumbers instead of vegetable juice. Include lean proteins like turkey, chicken, and fish, and discover which unsaturated fats you enjoy the most (ex. avocados). Eating foods in their natural form will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function at it’s best.
Alcohol can contribute to weight gain through a high-calorie content, dehydrating effects, and depressing your central nervous system (CNS). When the CNS is depressed our body’s ability to metabolize fat is impaired, causing us to store energy as fat. Alcohol can also interfere with the part of our brain that makes decisions, explaining why so many people overeat or make poor food choices after over-indulging in alcohol.
Become aware of bad habits. If part of your daily routine involves you reaching for a drink, recognize what you’re teaching your body. Every time you drink to relieve stress or put a rough day behind you, you are establishing a learned-response. These learned-responses will increase your risk for stress-related disorders and serious health problems. It isn’t impossible to kick a learned response, but the longer you ignore the problem the harder it can become to break the pattern.
Short-term effects. The following are just a handful of the negative effects alcohol can have on your body and mind:
- Alcohol-induced anxiety,
- disturbed sleep,
- increased feelings of stress,
- impairments leading to injury,
- memory loss,
- stomach pain,
- and weight gain.
If you take only one thing away from this post, let it be this. If you are consistently working towards your goals you WILL reach them.
Fad diets and magazine covers make claims that you can reach your goals in a week, but what they are actually promising you is disappointment. Depending on what your end goal is, you likely won’t reach them in a month, or even three months. Improving your health and losing weight safely is a journey that is measured in years. It’s going to take time and hard work to get to where you want to be.
Keep in mind that the fastest you can lose fat safely is at a rate of 1 lb of fat per week. There will be weeks where the scale doesn’t budge and then there will be weeks where you drop 2 lbs. Look at your journey from the perspective of a year and you will be setting yourself up for success.
Your action. Along the way, there will be many triumphs and moments to celebrate. Enjoy the journey by doing activities you love and celebrating your successes. If you are consistent with exercise and nutrition and are giving your body the time it needs to transform, you WILL reach your goals.
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