Stress, Mindfulness & Weight Loss

I’ve gotten a few messages about weight loss lately. People are telling me that they’re frustrated and ready to give up. Despite their stressful jobs, relationship issues or family drama, they’ve been working out consistently and eating super healthy. They all ask me the same thing – Why am I not losing weight?

Stress has a huge effect on our bodies. When you experience something that you perceive to be stressful, your sympathetic nervous system signals your “fight or flight response”, which leads your body to believe it needs to take action and avoid danger.

The problem is, your body isn’t able to differentiate between a bear chasing you or work-related stress.

There are three stages to the stress response.

The Science:

  1. The Alarm Stage – Your sympathetic nervous system is triggered to protect you from stress. Your brain triggers the adrenal glands to secrete hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone) and epinephrine (the adrenaline hormone). You’re now equipped with the emergency fuel and energy, in reaction to your panic. Your pulse, blood pressure, sweating, blood sugar and pupil dilation all increase.
  2. The Adaptive/Resistance Stage – After the initial stress response, your body tries to return to homeostasis. But, when these stress responses happen too often, your body remains on high alert. The extended release of stress hormones ends up lowering your immunity defenses. It causes fatigue, GI issues, increased fat storage, muscle/joint pain, lowered libido, irregular periods and more. Poor glucose control causes weight gain because the excess glucose is stored as fat.
  3. The Exhaustion Stage – When your body continues to function in this wired state, the emergency resources are depleted and body remains off balance.

Stress can’t be prevented, but it can be managed. I’ve learned some great tools and practices that help me manage my stress over the past year. I have fibromyalgia, so it’s especially important for me to control how stress affects my body. Because these things can alleviate stress, they’ll also help with weight loss.

I’ve been practicing yoga at  HotBox Yoga for the past few months. The room is heated to about 95 degrees, which I find really helps with my pain. We practice Ujjayi breathwork as we flow, and I feel so relieved by the end of class. After practicing in the morning, I find myself paying closer attention to my breathing throughout the day.

I moved from New York to Philly about a year ago, and never paid much attention to how I feel when I’m outdoors. I went to Colorado in September and I felt incredible being outside so much, in the sun (with my hat and SPF).

I’ve been journaling every night. I write for about 30 minutes, without stopping. I write whatever pops into my head, without thinking about it. I used to toss and turn when I’d lay down for bed, but this has helped me fall asleep faster, because I have more mental clarity.

Meditation has helped me, and I’ve learned that making it a habit, rather than just when I’m panicking is most beneficial. I sometimes do guided meditation, and sometimes I guide myself. Depends on what my mind needs that day.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet, which means avoiding caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and sugar will help too.

Decluttering my space has helped a lot too.



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