In my other article, I discuss the #1 reason for failure at weight loss, but right behind that is STRESS as the #2 reason why most people fail at weight loss - no matter what diet they're following or what program they're on
For almost every one of us, our lives can be characterized as fast-paced, extremely busy and a non-stop whirlwind of mental and physical stress. Whether we labor with our hands, work in an office, or run daily operations at home, we are all affected in some way.
What does this have to do with managing your weight?
For most of us, stress triggers an emotional response, and leaves us feeling upset or even angry. We often say that the situation "makes our blood boil", elevating our blood pressure and leaving us feeling tense and irritated.
It is exactly these feelings that make stress the #2 killer of good weight management strategies. Here's why...
When our bodies are stressed - when we feel tense and upset - there are tremendous changes going on inside. Specifically, our bodies produce extra quantities of certain hormones to get us ready for "fight or flight" - the body's natural response to stressful situations.
During stressful situations, our bodies produce increased levels of Adrenaline and Cortisol - as part of our body's natural defense system for stressful situations. Unless we get enough rest and relaxation between periods of stress, the levels of these two chemicals build up in our bodies over time making successful weight loss particularly difficult.
Excess Adrenaline over prolonged period does three things to our bodies, which all work against our weight loss. First, it reduces the activity of enzymes controlling the release of fat. Second, it can cause the body to retain fluid, increasing body weight. Third, increased Adrenaline stimulates our appetite, so we typically end up feeling hungrier and eating more.
How do you know if excess Adrenaline is in the way of your successful weight loss? If you have one or more of the following symptoms, this may indicate excess Adrenaline:
Inability for much exercise Feeling worse after exercising Water retention Need for caffeine Sweet and salt cravings Eating to relieve depression
Coupled with the negative side-effects of excess Adrenaline, the other bad actor, Cortisol, further worsens the situation.
Elevated levels of Cortisol for prolonged periods have the effect of raising our blood sugars, which in turn raises insulin levels, and gives rise to increased cravings and a stronger appetite. Not only that, increased Cortisol increases the tendency for our body to burn protein for energy instead of fat. The net result is that we end up storing more fat and gaining weight.
How do you know if excess Cortisol is in the way of your successful weight loss? Check the following symptoms:
Increased resistance to Insulin Increased blood pressure Weakening immune system Muscle wasting Decreased bone density Increased body fat Anxiety, especially in the AM
The hard fact is this - stress can sabotage even our best and most diligent weight loss efforts.
No matter how hard we try to just "work through it", stress sets off a chain of chemical imbalances and reactions in our bodies. This adds to the already tough mental and emotional challenges of losing weight, thereby making weight loss extremely difficult during extended periods of stress.
In the end, the best cure is to remove the stress - either by changing your lifestyle, habits or work situation. However, since that's not possible in all cases, the best practical solution is some structured stress relief that is coordinated with your weight loss effort into your daily life. My experience with patients is that just 20 minutes per day of the specifically-designed relaxation therapy works wonders...
Given today's hectic lifestyles and abundance of stress everywhere, it is our recommendation that whatever weight loss program you choose, it MUST INCLUDE a stress management or stress relief component. Otherwise, you might just as well keep eating the chocolate!