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Why can’t I lose weight?
One of the most frustrating experiences is working really hard to lose weight and not seeing any results. You could be exercising until you drop, eating a low number of calories but still the scale won’t move. What causes this? Unfortunately, weight loss does not occur in a vacuum and oftentimes making changes to what you eat and how you exercise may not be enough alone to shift your extra weight. So, what is one of the biggest external variables that effects weight loss?
Don’t roll your eyes straight away when you read this one. Stress can be a silent killer when it comes to destroying weight loss goals. It’s very common for people to dismiss stress as a factor for hindering weight loss. You may be thinking ”I don’t feel stressed” or “There’s nothing stressful happening in my life”, but if you dig a bit deeper you may find that you are not as in tune with your feelings as you thought. It’s possible that your job is really stressing you out. Maybe you brush it off and say it’s not that bad, but it might be time to consider how your body reacts to different situations. Our body not only responds to our conscious thoughts and feelings but also to our subconscious feelings. By monitoring your body, you can create a better understanding of how your subconscious perceives the world around you.
How Do You If Stress Is The Culprit?
For example: I worked at a busy restaurant. If you asked me if I was stressed I probably would have told you that I wasn’t stressed but that the job was very demanding. On one shift, I decided to take a moment to be mindful and observe my body during my workday. When I did this, I discovered that I was incredibly tense. When I delved a bit deeper and was more honest with myself, I learnt that I was harbouring a lot of resentment for having to work in a job that was unrewarding. I was shocked at just how much I subconsciously disliked my job.
While this may not be the best solution for everyone: I quit my job. I felt a lot of the stress melt away as soon as I quit. I also noticed that some (but not all) of my excess weight had started to fall away. Eventually I started to go through my savings and I knew I would have to look for a new job. During this time I found it nearly impossible to shift any more weight no matter what I did. Removing stress alone will not directly help you lose weight. But it may be indirectly stopping your hard work from paying off.
Try Not To Stress About Stress
There is one cause of stress to be highly cautious of when trying to lose weight. That is, being excessively stressed about trying to lose weight. You don’t want to be so stressed about the scale that you make your body too tense. This will only cause your body to hold onto those excess fat stores even tighter. Similarly, if you are stressed about not losing weight, don’t try to compensate for this by exercising excessively. Your body is likely to hold onto it’s excess fat even more so.
Why does this happen? When your body percieves danger (stress), it retains body fat in anticipation of hardships ahead (in a primal body, this would have been helpful in times when food was not often available or food resources were threatened). Although this would have been useful in the past, it can be frustrating when you’re trying to lose weight. The trick is not to fight it and to resolve the underlying causes of stress at the source.
So, how can you stop stress from getting in the way of your weight loss?
Meditation. The act of meditation helps to melt away stress no matter if you know what is stressing you out or not. If you want to take the edge off your stress, meditation is a great place to start. I didn’t meditate for many years because I thought “How can just sitting quietly really help?”. I was so wrong. The craze around meditation exists for a reason and that reason is that it can work really well.
Guided meditations are great to start with, as they will help you to relax without putting pressure on you to achieve enlightenment or anything like that. Guided meditations just give you the opportunity to stop, breathe and relax the muscles in your body to help reduce stress and its effects on your body. Anyone can meditate by taking the time and space to sit quietly, but it usually helps to have something to focus on. This could be a candle, incense smoke or even a soothing mantra that you can repeat to yourself. However, when I’m really tense, I like to allow the sound of a guided meditation to gently pull me out of my busy mind.
Take Time Out For Yourself
If you’re not into meditation, simply taking time out of your day to enjoy yourself can also help you to relieve excess stress. Alotting at least an hour out of your day should be enough time to allow your body to fully relax. This time can be used for any sort of relaxing activity. Including reading books, watching a favourite TV show, catching up with friends or taking a bubble bath. If necessary, you may find it beneficial to keep your phone switched off and at a distance during this time, to ensure that you are not interrupted by messages that may cause you to become stressed again (such as messages from work).
Other things you can do to relieve stress include ensuring that you go to sleep around the same time every night and get at least 8 hours of sleep, avoid excess caffeine and make sure that you do not place excess pressure on yourself (or allow others to put too much pressure on you). What you eat has an exaccerbated effect on you when you’re stressed. Replacing fried, oily and packaged food with stress fighting and antioxidant rich foods can really make a difference and help to fight stress from the inside out. Dark chocolate, blueberries and green tea are great to include during times of stress.
Are You Doing Too Much?
Another interesting point to keep in mind is the effect of exercise on stress. Reports are mixed about the effects of exercise on stress. Some claim that it helps relieve stress while others claim it makes it worse. The type of stress is important in this situation. If you are stressed because you have been pushing your body too hard and exercing too much, replacing your normal exercise with yoga may be helpful for stress reduction.
Keeping in mind that exercise is a stressor to your body (albeit a healthy stressor), be careful not to overdo it, as your body will pick up on the exercise as a stressor nonetheless and may cause you to retain weight. When you are stressed due to factors other than excessive exercise (emotionally or mentally stressed) then exercise may be just what you need to let off some steam and encourage your body to burn excess fat.
What is your experience with stress and weight loss plateaus? What have you found useful to help you break through them? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or send me through an email to: email@example.com
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