Help, my pants are too tight! How stress affects your weight.
In 2020, the world as we knew it came face-to-face with a worldwide shutdown. Stress levels were pushed to an all-time high creating a wave of mental health issues and increased drug and alcohol use. Many people also found a few extra pounds as health clubs shut down and a sedentary lifestyle became routine.
On the other end of the spectrum, the need to get out of the house got many people walking, running, and riding bikes for the first time. Bike shops quickly sold out of bikes, and fitness equipment became hard to find as fitness enthusiasts scrambled to find equipment to continue working out.
As a country and as individuals, many are still dealing with the stress of our new normal. From my own experience, I struggled with not being able to go to the gym. Most of the time, I didn’t have a problem getting myself to work out in my apartment or head out for a walk, and some days, it was all I could do to drag myself to do a workout. Even in a limited capacity, I’m so glad the gyms are open again!
For too many, the stress levels haven’t dissipated as they are still without work, holding down two jobs (homeschooling their kids and trying to work from home), they’ve lost a loved one, or any of the million other reasons the pandemic has caused despair.
How does this all relate to weight gain?
When out of balance, your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is responsible for regulating glands, smooth muscle, and cardiac muscle, has to work harder to find homeostasis between its two divisions: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The Sympathetic System is ‘Yang’ dominant (masculine) – a survival mechanism, which expends energy and destroys tissue. When faced with stress such as the pandemic, prepares for the “fight or flight response.” As the stress hormone cortisol increases, some of the responses seen are:
- Poor digestion – due to decreased salivation
- Anxiety – heart rate/respiratory increases
- Poor sleep quality – insomnia
- Night sweats
- Orgasm/genital inhibition
- Unrest upon waking
- Muscle tension
- Inflammatory conditions
- Immune system depletion
The Parasympathetic System is ‘Yin’ dominant (feminine) – this branch is anabolic, conserves energy, builds tissue, aids in digestion, increases immune function, increases metabolism, and aids in elimination while it counters the sympathetic nervous system’s effects. When out of balance, some of the responses are:
- Digestion issues
- Hyperactive bowel
- Orthostatic failure when waking – respiratory rate and perspiration
- Poor sleep quality – wanting to hibernate, sleepy/drowsy
- Mucus secretions
- Hands warm and dry
- Higher possibilities of allergies
- WBC count goes down (immune system)
Think of it this way. As the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated (excessive stress hormones), the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is suppressed (suppressed repair hormones), and vice versa looking much like a pendulum swinging back and forth.
When the SNS is in overdrive, weight gain is possible as cortisol levels increase and depleted sleep. Two critical factors in weight gain and in creating health concerns.
11 Ways to Reduce Your Pandemic Waistline and Restore Balance
Get rid of clutter – excess clutter in your life will throw you off balance both emotionally and physically. Creating a clutter-free environment, as well as your mental and emotional headspace. Feng Shui your environment.
Relax – take a bath, a warm shower, meditate, do some restorative yoga, listen to soft music, or spend time with pets.
Be YOU – Quirky, silly, serious, funny, playful, determined, etc. When you can be yourself, you’ll feel the freedom of being YOU.
Spend time outdoors – fresh air is great for our systems. Take your shoes off and walk in the grass, on the beach, or in the garden. The earth has a lot of energy to provide.
Create better sleep habits – seven to eight hours of good quality sleep. Set a bedtime and wake time and stick with it. Avoid caffeine, blue lights from your phone, computer, and tv before bed.
Release – let go of toxic people, places, and things. Let go of negative thoughts of fear, anger, worry, or guilt. They don’t serve the greater good of your health.
Forgiveness – practicing forgiveness goes a long way in resting the mind and releases tension from the body.
Gratitude – when you find things to be grateful for, you increase contentment and bring joy into your life.
Eat whole foods – eliminate processed foods, which are high in calories, lack essential nutrients, and are filled with sugars, trans fats, salt, and many other not so good additives. Follow the 80/20 rule (80% veggies and fruits and 20% lean proteins and fat).
Keep a food diary – Overeating one thing creates an imbalance.
Breathe – practice deep breathing. When we breathe deep, we bring in positive endorphins to lighten our mood, relieve stress, and relax the mind and body.
The tips listed above will help you achieve weight loss and gain greater health and wellness by finding a balance between the SNS (Yang) and the PNS (Yin). You’ll achieve greater success with repetition and consistency, and as you find balance, you’ll settle the mind and body, so they work together, helping to balance the energies.
If you are unsure of where to start or could use some support in your efforts to achieve the desired results, I invite you to reach out to me for a discovery call. I’ve been in your shoes and know how difficult it can be to achieve the desired outcome without support. Let’s get after this together!
Sources: Chek, Paul, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Level 1 Manual; Paul Chek; 2003-2015; 82-84