Stubborn Fat & Stress

Since we have been young we have been forced to believe that if we eat well and exercise, we will lose fat. Yet, if we are still struggling to get it off, we are then told to just eat less and train more and we will see results. When we should just eat well and train hard, and we will burn fat. Sounds like a simple solution, right?

With all of these theories and opinions on how is best to lose fat and them all seeming to be true, if that was the case then surely, we should all be walking around with the body of our dreams? Unfortunately, fat loss is not that simple. One of the main reasons I see many women (younger and older) struggling to lose body fat even when they are eating well, and training hard is (most of the time) down to stress.

We live in a stressful world (more now than ever). Our jobs are more demanding, we work long hours (sometimes 6-7 days a week) again just so we can buy the materialistic things that will let us feel some sort of accomplishment to show others (who don’t even care) that we have ‘made it’ or that we are doing so well. We are constantly on our phones/tablet/laptop and there is also the added stressors of finances, family, and relationships.

When we are stressed our body releases a hormone called cortisol, I am sure many of you have heard of this. This stress could be from emotional sources, physical sources, training stress, dehydration, anxiety, or sleep deprivation. Cortisol plays a key role in energy production by breaking down different types of tissue in the body to convert to glucose, which will give us more energy to get through a stressful situation. In small bursts, cortisol is greatly beneficial, and it can help us to build muscle and burn fat, so please do not worry, it is a natural process. However, cortisol does become the issue when we remain in a state of complete stress and cant switch off – which is when our levels are always elevated.

Below are 5 issues that occur when cortisol is elevated for long periods of time that will have an impact of your results.

·    Insulin Resistance – When cortisol is elevated all the time, it departs glucose into the bloodstream, Insulin is then secreted to remove the glucose from the bloodstream (as it is toxic in here). Over time, insulin receptors will stop working which means glucose will then stay in the bloodstream. This is what makes fat loss difficult and means more fat will be stored around the hips and midsection.

·    Extra Stubborn Core Fat – Studies have shown repeatedly that highly stressed women have higher levels of abdominal fat than low-stress women. If you are struggling to lose fat especially around the mid-section that is tell-tale sign stress is an issue for you. Or if you have never had your hormones checked and constantly bloated, I would highly recommend going to see your doctor / dietitian because there may be more behind the bloating than stress.

·    Emotional Eating - Stress influences us to satisfy the pleasure centers in our brain to reduce stress. Cortisol can also work to increase appetite, to ensure there is enough energy for our body to deal with the stress. A study found women with high cortisol consumed more calories on days of higher stress, with many of these excess calories coming from sweet foods (we all know the feeling). So high levels of cortisol mean increased hunger and cravings for foods high in sugar and fat. We all know those days when we are so stressed or anxious that all we want to do is reach for that chocolate bar, which then kicks in the ‘satisfying’ feeling from our brain and help us ‘relax’ when really there are so many other options for us to do to de-stress.

·    Digestion Issues – Cortisol decreases the absorbency of the gut wall. This means food particles can ‘leak’ through the gut wall and into the bloodstream, some of you may have heard of the gut issue ‘Leaky Gut’ which is what it is referring to, this will then cause a number of  digestion problems. If you struggle with digestion issues it may be due to stress. When digestion issues are present, your fat loss will stall. You may feel a constant sickening feeling or bloating.

·    Not allowing yourself to recover – cortisol decreases your muscle's ability to recover from training. Therefore, recovery days are so important! You can still be active but make sure it is low impact and not for a lengthy amount of time. 

Basically, stress does bizarre things to peoples’ bodies, which then adds more stress because we are worried about it and over thinking!  It is a vicious cycle. It can affect anything from your menstrual cycle, digestion, muscle recovery, fatigue, your skin, thyroid function (the list goes on). Any of these underlying issues will directly affect your ability to get results.

I hope this gives you an understanding of how stress can be holding you back from getting the results you want. I know how frustrating it can be to think you are doing everything right, but it still isn’t working. 95% of the time I find by addressing stress with my clients we can get them the results they want! Just remember to eat healthy, move well and sleep.

If you have been struggling with stress, low self-confidence, poor gut health, slow metabolism, and are sick and tired of it, and you want a sustainable solution, let’s get you booked in for a consultation & chat so we can discuss your options and how we are going to work as a team to get a healthier and confident you.


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