Nowadays, our ‘fight or flight’ response and cortisol production is being triggered simply by our jobs. But how is that related to not being able to lose weight?
This chronic activation and repeated stimulation of stress hormone release can lead to the wear and tear of our bodies regulating systems (e.g the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis, glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity and appetite related hormones). As a result, it can cause you to stack on the kgs and having even more trouble shifting them. So, stress as a result of your job can cause you to gain weight, and then the added weight itself can cause more stress, creating a vicious cycle.
Here are the 6 main reasons the stress from your job is impacting your weight + what to do about it:
1. Your cortisol levels are imbalanced
Chronic stress is causing your cortisol levels to imbalance. Cortisol is responsible for what I call the belt. The excess fat storage around your waist. It’s responsible for stimulating your appetite, and increasing your blood sugar levels causing insulin (the fat storing hormone to transport sugar from your blood to your cells where it is stored as fat).
Constant cortisol secretion due to stress not only promotes abdominal fat but contributes to poor memory focus and brain fog.
How to balance your cortisol levels:
- Time outside everyday. Eat your lunch outside, take your shoes off, enjoy the sunshine and surround yourself with nature.
- Meditate. Download a meditation app and schedule it into your day. Start small, aiming for 5 minutes a day.
- Gentle exercise and movement. Forget the high intensity stuff. That is going to drain your energy and put more stress on your body. Opt for a brisk walk or a sweaty yoga session.
- Eat the right foods and at the right times. Nourish and fuel your body and brain throughout the day with nutrient dense whole foods and an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Include foods high in B vitamins (good for mood and motivation) and Magnesium (helps us to relax).
See also: How To Meditate (Successfully)
2. You have cravings or emotional eat
Stress contributes to delectable cravings for foods higher in fat and sugar. Furthermore, during times of high stress and strict deadlines we often reward ourselves with foods upon completion of a task; choose convenient unhealthy options when on a tight schedule, and turn to highly processed, salty and sugary meals when trying to numb how stressed we are. All these behaviours promote weight and body fat.
How to eliminate cravings and stop emotional eating:
- Be prepared. Have go-to healthy snacks and simple balanced meals for when your too busy to leave your desk.
- Avoid the packaged stuff, aim for wholefoods. Go to snacks include: yoghurt and berries, avocado/cheese/nut butters on rice wheels, a piece of fruit, raw nuts and seeds.
- Ensure you’re having an adequate protein with each meal. Protein provides us with amino acids that help fuel our brain function; helps us feel full and reduce sweet cravings. Aim for a palm size portion of meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes with each meal.
- If you are reaching for chocolate, choose a good quality dark chocolate and limit yourself to a few squares.
3. You’re too busy and time poor
Often when we’re stressed we’re too busy to do anything. Exercise, being social or slowing down. Long periods of stress add to our overall fatigue, low motivation, poor productivity and bad mood, leaving us no time or energy, to do the things we love.
How to gain back your time:
- Prioritise your priorities. Find a space in your calendar and schedule in some time for you. Start with 10 mins a day and use this time to chill out. I’m talking no phone, no work, no one. Just you and yourself.
- Make time for some sort of exercise. Choose something you like to do and ideally make it social. It will not only be good for your waistline but will boost your endorphins and overall mental health.
4. You’re lacking sleep
Sleep is a time when your body can go into ‘rest and digest’ mode (the opposite to ‘fight or flight’) and burn fat! Inadequate sleep not only contributes to weight gain but has a domino effect on a number of biochemical processes in the body and other aspects in your life.
How to get more sleep each night:
- Put your technology on aeroplane mode from 6pm. Opt for conversations, reading a book or doing something you love.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day and expose yourself to natural light when you wake in the morning. This will help to regulate your circadian rhythm aka the sleep and wake cycle.
- Create a relaxing going-to-bed routine and in this, avoid any stimulants before bed (sugary snacks and drinks, screen time).
5. You’re over stimulated
Tight deadlines and constant pressure means more caffeine and more screen time. This constant stimulation causes you to be easily agitated, irritable and impacts your sleep. Yes work is stressful but adding sugar to your coffee and reaching for energy drinks, overtime will contribute to your weight gain.
How to reduce stimulation:
- Limit your stimulants. Eg no sugary energy drinks and limit your coffee intake after 2pm. Choose herbal teas, a veggie juice or kombucha instead
- Limit your screen time before bed. That means no scrolling before bed time, no TV or computers before bed. The blue light from technology stimulates our nervous system and sets us up for a poor sleep. Try using ‘night mode’.
6. You’re dehydrated
Dehydration = poor body function. I think we underestimate the importance of water, it is vital for weight management. Water helps boost your metabolism, assist with detoxification processes and control our food intake! Chances are we are mistaking hunger for thirst and end up acting on this (aka constant snacking).
How to stay hydrated:
- Aim to drink at least 2.5L of water a day
- Pimp your water to make it more fun to drink. Do this by adding citrus, mint, berries, cucumber and herbal teas
- Set reminders on your phone to drink a glass of water each waking hour
- Buy a reusable drink bottle and track and measure how much water your having throughout the day, leave one in the office, your bag, in the car… there are no excuses
If you’re ready to call in the support to reduce your stress levels and manage your weight once and for all, go ahead and book your initial consultation with me. Using a holistic approach to health paired with nutritional medicine, I can help you get to where you want to be, sooner than you think!
P.S. Want to learn more about how I help stressed and busy professionals lose weight, gain energy and feel good again? Learn more here.