Too often, women and their healthcare practitioners think weight loss is all about cutting calories and exercising more. But I have several patients who’ve tried these avenues with no success. The majority of women I see at my practice are genuinely trying to do everything “right” for their health. They exercise regularly, eat well, take their supplements, and so on. However, there is something else going on that they haven’t considered might be effecting their weight: stress. Stress and weight loss go hand in hand together, but many fail to make the connection.
Many women come to me frustrated with their weight gain and haven’t lost a pound doing what they thought would help. They are past the point of desperation when they come see me — and trust me, I know how they feel, because I’ve been there! In order to fully understand the connection between stress and weight loss, let’s explore the possibility of your adrenal glands being imbalanced.
Stress and Weight Loss – How Stress Can Make Us Gain Weight
Go through this list of symptoms to see if you are someone who:
- Feels bone tired during the day, only to perk up at night
- Nods off at the movies, at meetings, or while reading during the daytime
- Loves to snack in the evening and frequently stay up late into the night
- Feels hungry, confused, or shaky when under pressure during the day
- Habitually relies on caffeine and high-carb snacks to boost flagging energy
- Starts to notice a “spare tire” growing larger and larger around the waist each year
- Eats modestly and exercises, but still doesn’t lose weight
If you checked off two or more of the above for yourself, adrenal fatigue could lie at the core of your weight gain.
These patients are always surprised when I ask them about the stress in their lives, and they want to know, What does stress have to do with weight gain?
With years of chronic stress the adrenal glands — which govern our stress response, help balance a woman’s blood sugar, and regulate many other of our body’s processes — can become imbalanced, leading to cortisol dominance or deficiency, insulin resistance, and unwanted weight gain. When this happens, it doesn’t matter how many calories you cut from your diet. The body is in crisis mode and is preparing for a famine. To do this, it clings to every calorie and packs it away in case the need arises.
Number One for Your Adrenal Health: Eat!
Eating to reduce your stress and weight gain is key. Hunger and tiredness means you’re naturally reaching for whatever is in front of you. This in turn means you’re more likely to eat foods with sugar, caffeine and carbohydrates. While those foods may fill your need in the moment, they won’t serve you well in the long term. I recommend during the healing phase you avoid processed foods, alcohol, caffeine and sugar. You’ll begin to notice positive changes when these foods are removed from your diet.
Start to keep the right foods around you more and you’ll see that it’s worth it in the end. You can cook lean proteins ahead of time, purchase vegetables peeled and cut, and put nut butters on an apple – quick and easy. Always remember…your health and prosperity are worth putting in the effort. Don’t let the stress and weight loss connection hold you back anymore!
Pace Yourself to Promote Healing
In our fast-paced world, it’s almost impossible to unplug. Advances in technology have provided us with so many distractions and ways to disconnect from what’s around us.
The thing is, our adrenal glands take notice of this and can be set off balance by the habitual use of technology. What I recommend to counter this adrenal imbalance is slowing down the pace you’re going at. Perhaps you think that constantly moving will help you lose weight, but if you move too much the opposite will happen. An overly busy lifestyle will cause your stress levels to increase and your adrenals to work overtime. You will stay in a continuous cycle of weight gain because of your stress– this is the relationship between stress and weight loss. Here’s a couple tips I’ve complied to teach you how pacing yourself is best for relieving yourself of stress to better promote adrenal balance.
Whenever you feel stress starting to build, one of the best things to do is to calmly stop whatever you’re doing. Through your nose, take 3 very deep breaths, then exhale gently through your mouth – you’ll start to feel your heart rate decrease. What great is you can do this anywhere and it’s effective everywhere!
Sleep has more of an affect on your ability to lose weight than you’d think! If your natural circadian rhythm is disrupted, your cortisol cycle will also be disrupted. I suggest setting a goal to get at least 7 hours sleep per night. Practice good sleep hygiene by turning off all electronics one hour before bed, as well.
Exercise with Caution
Avoid straining your adrenals as they heal. If you exercise regularly, then I suggest keeping your heart rate under 90 beats per minute. It isn’t out of the ordinary for me to suggest someone to stop any rigorous activities for a few months while they are healing. For those who don’t exercise, I recommend walking 15 minutes once or twice a day.
This may be the most essential tip! Take the time to do something fun – whatever that means to you – every day! Perhaps it’s scheduling lunch with best friend or face timing with a family member. Maybe you like to curl up with a good book and blanket or take a soothing bath. Go for a walk with your dog to the local dog park or to the beach for a fun swim. You can pursue anything you love – one woman I know loves to take classes in things that catch her interest. Her classes range from everything from craft classes to wine tasting. Whatever is most fun for her, she does, and both her spirits and health are elevated. The lesson here: discover what you value most and pursue it to the degree where you enjoy where your life has lead to now.
Final Thoughts on Stress and Adrenal Imbalance
Many women with adrenal imbalance feel like exhaustion is just their natural state of being. Some depend on caffeine and high-carb snacks to get through the day. Others can barely get out of bed. Our adrenal glands are fundamental to our health and play a huge role for stress and weight loss. During adrenal imbalance, the body prepares for disaster the best way it knows how — by storing calories. Genetically, some of us are more predisposed to this than others. But the good news is that if we heal the adrenals, stubborn pounds often fall away without too much effort, and our energy returns.
Take a closer look at your adrenal glands and find out about solutions for healing yours — and finally getting rid of that stubborn weight. Learn more from our articles on adrenal health.