You’re nailing your meal plan. You’re training hard but appropriately for your goals. You’re doing everything right. (But just a little bit of tough love– most people aren’t 100% on point with those things, it might be worth double checking to make sure you’re actually doing what you think you are.) So why isn’t your body changing?
I don’t know you. But I know people who are probably a lot like you. I suspect that you’re probably at least a little bit stressed out. Or maybe you’re just sort of crazy train all the time. Wherever you are, realize that stress is not doing your waistline any favors. I should make a series on stress, because it’s a big, complicated problem. Until I can do that, understand that your tendency to carry a “spare tire” around your middle is likely directly related to stress, via the hormone cortisol. Hormones (and you have lots of them, not just the ones you learned about in Sex Ed) are chemical messengers that control so many things in your body, including whether you’re full and satisfied or hungry and angry (hangry!). Cortisol is part of your body’s fight or flight response. Its job is to get you ramped up, so you can deal with whatever emergency is headed your way. Your body is supposed to calm you back down once the crisis is over, but that’s not really how we live our lives these days. We’re in permanent freak out mode, and the body can’t keep up. Our bodies and our brains are exhausted, whether we realize it or not. Because your body is so ramped up, you’re likely not sleeping as well as you should, which means your body isn’t getting the rest it needs to fix itself. Because your body is in a state of crisis, it also wants “survival” food, which in modern terms usually means sugary, fatty crapfood. It doesn’t matter how awesome you are. Nobody craves broccoli and brussels sprouts when they are stressed. But here’s the real kick in the (now larger, thanks a lot, cortisol) pants: high cortisol causes an increase in Belly Fat, which is not only enough to make even the most saintly want to cuss, it’s also dangerous. Most belly fat is something called visceral fat– which is the kind that wraps around your organs. On the upside, if you’re in the south, you can affectionately refer to this condition as “Dunlop Syndrome”. As in “My Belly Dun Lopped Over My Belt”. Ok, that’s not much help.
I still don’t have the body of my dreams, and this is a large part of the reason why. My trainer keeps telling me that I won’t get to my goals until I learn to manage my stress, and so far, he is irritatingly right. However, it’s not been in my best interest to point out that being nagged at to reduce my stress isn’t so much helpful.
So that being said, here’s my best list of things that help. I’m just still a work in progress on this one!
- Do more of what makes you happy and makes you feel like you. Do less of what you only do because people expect you to.
- Be willing to say no sometimes. The world functioned before you were here, and it will (hopefully) continue once you are gone.
- Practice noticing beauty. Maybe it’s the way a child’s face lights up when he sees ice cream, or the way the fall light dances through the leaves. Look for it, wherever you go. (If you’re on Instagram, connect with me! While I always look for beauty, I often take pictures just as a way to keep me awake to fantastic things all around me.
- Practice Gratitude. Being a Negative Nelly (or Ned) doesn’t help anything. But practicing gratitude changes your whole mindset. If you happen to be of the Christian tradition, consider a practice called the Examen, which is a very old practice popularized by St. Ignatius. You can read more here.)
- Practice Yoga and/or Meditation. The breath is very powerful, especially combined with purposeful stillness or purposeful movement. If you’re not there yet, just practice breathing. Breathe to counts of 10, where you count one on the inhale, two on the exhale, etc. Once you hit ten, start over. Try it for 3 or 5 minutes, or whatever you have. If you really want to feel positive effects, practice breathing so your belly (not your chest) expands when you inhale.
- Walk. It’s the same idea, but use it as a chance to breathe and notice beauty.
- Exercise. Ok, ok, most people tell you that walking is exercise, and it is to an extent. But I also mean do things where your heart rate gets up, and you expend a lot of energy. It gets your endorphins going, but a good sweat fest does wonders for clearing the brain.
What works for you? Would love to hear your comments!
Think it’s just about weight loss? Check out tomorrow’s post.