Think back to the last time you had to deal with a period of high level stress. Now, I don’t want you to think about what exactly was causing the stress, but more so about how it affected you. Most likely, it impacted your daily life to a certain extent depending on the level of stress you were experiencing. Many individuals use food as a coping mechanism when experiencing high amounts of stress. Maybe you turned to food as comfort, maybe you went the opposite direction and simply did not have an appetite for days at a time. Neither of those options are beneficial to your health nor your goals of weight loss. On the other side of the spectrum dieting can actually induce stress in your life. Low-calorie diets have been shown to increase cortisol production which is our major stress hormone. That along with counting calories and macros can be incredibly stressful for (SOME) individuals. This is why we stress that:
- Dieting (or fat loss) should be a phase. Dieting is not a lifestyle, and you should not be in a caloric deficit for the entire year. Spending some time at maintenance, or even massing (gaining weight with the focus of muscle-building) is recommended to not only give your body time to recover from dieting, but also give you a mental break which will ultimately reduce stress levels. If you do however come to the realization that your diet is adding too much stress to your life, it may be time to reassess your goals in order to go through a more productive fat-loss phase at a later time.
- Make sure you are choosing a diet that is a good fit for YOU. Counting macros certainly has a time and place, but it is not for everyone. Maybe you need a more general approach to start, maybe you need a more structured meal plan to follow. Chances are, if you are severely struggling with dietary adherence, it may be time to reassess your methods and try something new. (If you need help figuring out what may be best for you, email us HERE– we can help!)
With that being said, dieting is HARD. Harder for some than others, but it is also important to recognize that you are essentially putting your body into starvation mode (on purpose) when in a fat-loss phase. Your body is going to want to fight you, you will probably experience hunger, and that is normal in this phase. There are however a lot of great ways to combat these issues and in our next blog we will be discussing our favorite dieting tips so stay tuned there!
Obviously we can’t just flip to the next page of our lives and be stress-free (wouldn’t that be nice?), but there are ways to minimize your stress levels and how you handle your overall stressors. There are a few steps you can take to address this and move forward as a calmer, more efficient individual.
Identify what is stressing you out. Sometimes this is obvious, other times there may be underlying issues that you simply did not realize are messing with your head. Lack of sleep, a big life change such as moving, a restrictive diet, workplace drama or even your marital status can all cause some level of stress. Realizing what it is that is causing you higher levels of stress than normal is just as important as drawing a line between what it is that you can control versus what is beyond controllable. Be old-fashioned and grab a pen/paper (or use the Notes app in your phone is you’re more tech-savvy) and literally jot down everything causing anxiety to you at the very moment. Put a star next to what you have control over and work from there to see how you are going to start managing them. As far as those un-starred items? Simply make it aware to yourself that these are far beyond your control, and let be what will be.
Structure your day. This is something that has really been life-changing for me personally as I have grown from being the most unorganized, late, “hot mess” individual to someone who utilizes a daily planner to schedule time slots for just about everything that needs to be accomplished. When you design a structured day, you are ultimately referring back to step 1 and controlling everything that can possibly be controlled. I find this method great for those who get overwhelmed with the “small stuff”. This can be as simple as using a planner, or just taking a blank sheet of paper and jotting down your daily schedule, what needs to get done and when it needs to be done by. I schedule everything from packing my lunch for the next day, to some downtime to read, to my training, and since I have started acting on living an organized life, I have GREATLY reduced the amount of stress I was perceiving. Every Sunday, I take some time to either mentally or physically take note of the week ahead and what it will consist of so that way when things DO pop up, I can be as prepared as possible to address them.
Practice mindfulness. I can’t preach this one enough. Set aside even just 5 minutes out of your day- maybe after you shower at night, before your morning coffee or right before you hit the pillow- to sit in silence and just ponder your life. I start by pointing out all of the positives I can think of that I have going for me at the moment. Small things such as getting to spend some time with a certain loved one that day, hitting a new PR in the gym, or even a really delicious meal you had earlier. Let the good consume your mind for a few minutes and you won’t believe how much less stressed you immediately feel. When you focus on the positive, you will continue to act, think and be positive.
While stress will never go away completely, you can do everything in your power to learn how to handle it best for your body and mind that are healthy, productive and will ultimately make you happier while still allowing you to achieve your goals.