I have found that many people (my clients included!) get hung up on the tiny details of their health and fitness journey, such as - what they should eat, when they should eat it, what the scale says when they step on it etc......
By focusing on these things we are ignoring the bigger picture, and neglecting to see the things that do have an impact on how we look, feel, and function.
There are many things that cause stress on our bodies, and all our stress goes to the same place in our bodies, an overload of stress (of any type) can cause our cortisol levels to soar, and cause us to plateau in our health and fitness journey.
Everyone experiences some form of regular stress, whether they are aware of it or not. This could be in the form of:
- Poor sleep
- Family / relationship stress
- Work stress
- Money worries
- Health issues
- Over exercising
- Dieting too hard (too low calories)
Whilst exercise is a valuable tool, it is a stress on the body, which is why I always encourage scheduled rest and recovery days, and if someone is suffering from a high level of stress in another area of their life I may schedule a longer rest period. Exercise and nutrition management is key in keeping our stress levels low, and allowing for progression of any type.
The same goes for dieting, when we consistently consume less calories than we are burning it puts a stress on the body, this is why I always advocate keeping calories as high as possible during a diet phase, a good coach can help to establish the sweet spot to enable results - whilst keeping the body functioning at the best of its ability.
To feel and look our best, we must be able to tune in to what our bodies are trying to tell us, if we are overly sore - take a rest day. If we are going to bed ravenous each night - look to increase food volume. If we are suffering from fatigue and low mood - reassess both food and exercise.
If we do not keep these things in check then it can prevent us from reaching our goals, excess stress can cause our immune system to become vulnerable to picking up infections, it can cause us to hold on to excess water (making us look puffy, and feel sluggish), which can be reflected by the scale not shifting. High stress levels can also affect our digestion and gut, which in turn can cause us to have stomach upsets, and even stall the absorption of vital vitamins and minerals.
High levels of stress can also affect sleep, mental clarity, mood, and is linked to the aggravation / cause of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Hormonal changes can occur if our stress levels become too high, symptoms could include - loss of periods in women, irritability, head aches, hair loss, and you may also suffer from heart palpitations, or muscle soreness as a result of a build up of tension.
We should always aim to work in harmony with our bodies, rather than fight against it. It is the only body you are ever going to get! This is the reason I ensure that I try to manage my clients expectations, goals should be realistic to allow us to keep the results coming, and the body happy! This in turn leads to long term changes rather than yo-yo ing and / or poor adherence.
It is important to note that if stress is becoming a long term problem, and affecting in you in some of these ways, then it might be a good idea to visit your GP, they will be able to offer help and guidance in coping with stress.