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Stress and Weight Loss- Can relentless worries really prevent your success?

The topic of stress and weight gain comes up quite a bit between myself and Valley to Peak athletes as well as patients in the hospital. There's an undertone the topic carries that almost conveys an unbridled weight gain that we'll have no control over. There are SOME cases and scenarios where this is possible, but those are exception and NOT the rule. They're the zebras in a pack of horses. A recent conversation between an athlete and I dove a little deeper into the topic. I hope it's insightful and helps put some of those myths to bed.

So, it begs the question of either (a) stress stimulating the production of the hunger hormone from what I assume is the start of your new job (or any life stressor) OR (b) the mind screwing with us and the “old man” resurrecting himself and trying to treat an uncomfortable situation with the comfort of food. I know the “old man” well as mine pops up on occasion….even 11 years later

Weight gain or the “obesity” diagnosis as a whole (a term I hate, by the way…) is often blamed on stress. It’s a very general term and a BROAD idea that could mean a number of things to a number of different people.

While long-term stress does wreak havoc on our body (through the increased hormones involved with stress like Cortisol), we also know that our behavior and response to that stress plays a huge role too. It's not like a person's weight is going to balloon through the roof simply because you've encountered a stressful situation in life. If that were the case, we'd all be in trouble! Is life not full of seasons where we experience higher levels of stress? New jobs. New schools. Politics. Money. Jobs. Relatives. The list is virtally endless.

How Behavior and Response Plays a Role

A very (very) basic explanation of how stress affects weight is largely explained through the changes that happen in our body during stressful situations, especially long-term stress. In short, our hormones for hunger increase and our ability to notice when were full decrease. It's easy to see how someone could feel they'll fall victim to stress-induced weight gain when you combine this alteration in hormones with reduced sleep and a culture where we all have a high propensity to emotionally cope with food!

However, just because this cascading effect happens to us does not mean we have to respond to it. This is where the mindset of a program like Valley to Peak really pays itself off. Simply being aware that these things happen is half of the battle. The second half is working with a coach to prepare how you'll develop a strategy to combat them when they do come.

Here's what that looks like:

- Todd starts a new job. The job is quite demanding, which inevitably adds some stress to his life.

- Todd also just had a baby about 4 months ago and feels the tug of the attention needed to be present in his son's new life.

- Todd doesn't feel it, but there's a slight rise in the stress hormone as this time turns from being a handful of days, to weeks, to months, to years.

- As a part of this rise, Todd also doesn't recognize that his hunger hormone is heightened, but does realize that he's "been a lot hungrier lately...". And, that "it seems like no matter what I do I can't get full...".

It's at this point, we can opt to go one of two routes. We can choose to respond to those by increasing our intake OR we can choose to not allow our behavior to follow our feelings.

If we choose the latter, we mitigate the problems typically associated with stress-induced weight gain.

Is this easy? No. Not at all. But, it is something that gets easier and easier with time and practice. That's also the benefit in having someone with you in your journey. This isn't someone you've got to have by your side the rest of your life, but it can be an asset in your corner for a few months. But,

If we challenge what we feel like doing with controlled intake and reminding ourselves what the reality is (food isn’t going to fix my issue here…), then we can still progress/achieve our goals. There's no question it can be challenging to separate emotion from reality, but it's possible.

With these tools and idea in mind, you no longer have to think that you're going to be a product to the circumstances in your life. It's possible to override them with intentionality, patience, and inviting someone in with you on your journey.

Interested in learning more or working with someone? Apply for Valley to Peak Coaching here!


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