Have you ever found yourself exercising like a maniac and dialing in your nutrition only to see minimal results? Why does that happen? Isn’t diet and exercise the key to optimal fitness? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. There is one more major player in the fitness equation and that is your mental health aka stress level.
Stress is gotten a lot of press lately and rightly so. In a day and age where there a million notifications, messages, likes, emojis, apps, and thoughts competing for attention it’s only a matter of time where you mental computer will have a melt down.
Stress is here to stay folks, it ain’t going anywhere and to be honest we don’t want it to. The stress response system is vital for our survival, how else will we know whether to fight or flight? Rather than trying to make eliminate stress itself, let’s look at eliminating the triggers instead… yes, that may mean shutting down facebook and stepping away from your computer.
What does stress have to do with weight? Before answering that question, we first need to answer this question – What does weight have to do with eating?
Healthy eating requires 3 key criteria (in my opinion):
- You must eat. It may sound silly but I’m sure you can remember the last time you skipped breakfast AND lunch because you were too busy. Eating.
- Make healthy choices. Eating healthy means making healthy choices which, in my books does not typically include donuts, cookies, and cake.
- Healthy digestion. This is a big one that is often overlooked in the eating process. Eating starts before you put that bite into you mouth and ends way after you have swallowed it down. If you’re not effectively processing the healthy food you are eating, it’s unhealthy.
How does stress impact healthy eating?
The simple answer is that your body is not wired to manage stress and digest food simultaneously, in fact it’s not wired to do much of anything else while managing stress. What may seem like a DNA flaw in today’s high stress society is what has kept us alive. Our body couldn’t be concerned with eating and digesting when it was trying to fight off a sabertooth tiger. It’s not like we could have told the tiger to hold on while we scarfed down some food and took a poop, can you imagine?!
When the stress response system is turned on the following actions occur:
- Cortisol is released. This master stress hormone sets everything in motion.
- Causes insulin resistance, glucose is being released for immediate use
- Causes leptin resistance, hunger cravings are let loose
Other symptoms of chronic stress:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
Basically healthy eating is nearly impossible, not because you don’t have the desire and motivation, but because physiologically your body is in survival mode. However rather than running wild in the jungle, it’s running wild in the city streets surrounded by donuts and drinks. You want to eat everything in sight and drink away your depression, the last thing on your mind is that diet plan you initiated. When you do finally come to your senses you fall victim to negative self talk once again triggering the stress response and the cycle continues.
Sounds brutal right? I think so.
This is why it’s so important to stop stress before it starts. Can this system be overridden? Not completely, because we are hardwired to respond to stress… if you’ve developed a strong routine of eating healthy and exercise along with a mindful lifestyle you’re better equipped to take on stressors.
Some great ways to manage stress are:
- mindful eating
What are your tips and tricks to manage stress? Post to comments…
Until next time… Stay mindful. Stay well.
P.S. Here’s a fantastic infographic by Happify that sums it all up.