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Last week South Wales evening post and my amazing friend and fellow personal trainer Tara Hammett hosted a fitness and well being Expo in Swansea’s Dragon Hotel. I was lucky enough to be asked to give a seminar to those attending, and I chose to talk about stress and how that effects us in overall health and fat loss goals. Here is briefly what I covered. Hope you enjoy it and hope you can learn from it and implement some changes in your lifestyle to help combat stress.

Have you, or someone you know tried all diets and exercise programs and still can’t achieve the body you want? well this could be due to a stressful lifestyle that’s causing fat storage instead of fat loss.

Our bodies are amazing and adapt to all types of situations. Weight / fat loss and change in body shape isn’t just determined by the amount and type of food you eat or exercise you do. Your whole lifestyle plays a part in how your body will react and specifically how your hormones react within your body to these other factors. Protecting itself from harm i.e. stress.

It’s horrible going into a diet all positive and determined, but then after a few days, experience the feeling of constantly craving sugary and fatty foods, well in fact all the foods we are depriving ourselves from, on the diet.

Also lacking motivation when your life is hectic or your feeling down can also prevent you from sticking to a diet. The busier and more stressful our lives, the less time we find for ourselves to exercise or eat right or even just relax and recharge our batteries. This can then lead to mood swings and depression.

All of these will surely make you give up and think ‘what is the point’ instead of you seeking some advice to find out where you are going wrong and what you can actually do to change things.

Stress has a huge effect on our bodies and minds. This stress may not be emotional, but maybe physical and stress you may not even be aware of.

When under stress our bodies prepare themselves for Fight or Flight Response, which dates back to our ancestors.There was a time we had to hunt for our food and be faced with fighting off dangerous animals or becoming food ourselves. The body would then need to be prepared to either fight the dangerous animal, or more sensibly run away from it. To respond to this huge danger, the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to release the hormones Adrenalin and Cortisol. The Adrenaline giving the up, alert feeling and the Cortisol flooding the body with sugar to give it energy for either fight or flight. This day and age we rarely have to fight or run for our lives, thankfully. However, we are still faced with everyday stresses of life and so the body still reacts to this stress within the same way, but we don’t use all sugar, energy that is supplied by the Cortisol under today’s stresses, both emotional and physical, all of which will have the effect of raising blood sugar, Therefore, this excess sugar will be stored as fat. These everyday stresses can be, relationship problems, moving home, work, divorce, lack of sleep, money, skipping meals or dieting, a new baby and even over exercising

Cortisol’s response to Stress:

Cortisol is very important within the body as in does enable us to deal with stressful situations. Once Cortisol has flooded the body with sugar to deal with the stressful situation, Insulin is in turn released to lower the blood sugar. As not all of this sugar can be used as energy, the Insulin pushes it into the cells, storing it as fat. If Insulin takes the blood sugar too low, then the body releases Cortisol again to raise blood sugar, and so on, continually causing a see saw effect between Cortisol and Insulin. If this continues daily within the body, then it will eventually cause the body to become Insulin resistant, thus resulting in Diabetes.

This continual see saw effect will cause mood swings, energy lows and metabolic resistance. This is very common in today’s lifestyles as I’m sure you all have very busy lives. Rushing around with work and family commitments. All trying to aim for better lives and not taking time out to relax, unwind and generally look after ourselves. Possibly leading to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, hypertension and many more medical issues.

Managing Stress:

Cortisol levels need to be reduced for a healthy body and certainly for optimum fat loss. Daily stresses of work, family life and general hustle and bustle of life is something that you can actually improve on. By planning your day, getting up earlier, leaving for work earlier etc then the stress of these things can be reduced. However things like, illness, accident or losing a job are mainly things that cannot be controlled. Limiting the stresses you can control will better prepare you to deal with the uncontrollable stresses that may arise.

There are lots of ways to de-stress such as a nice, leisurely walk in a calming, nice environment, yoga, adequate sleep, meditation, a peaceful long soak in a candle lit bath with Epsom salts, away from the partner and kids, and eating correctly (not starving yourself)

It is very important that we introduce these types of activities into our busy schedules and just take time out for ourselves to recharge our batteries and be able to start it all over again, but refreshed.

Sleep is very important to reduce stress. Sleep enables our hormones to be reset and lack of or broken sleep will mean we wake with raised Cortisol levels. This is also when our hormones are regulated to ensure we fat burn not store. Lack of sleep with leave you craving sugary and fatty foods for the rest of the day, as well as possibly seeking stimulants to overcome the tired feeling. Exercise and good nutrition are the most powerful sleep aids we have.

 Scientific research has proven that sustained high level of Cortisol, triggered by unrelenting stress, has debilitating effects on long term health. The primary role of Cortisol is to encourage the body to refuel after stress. Thus leaving elevated Cortisol levels, resulting in hunger and cravings. This can lead to increased body fat and eventually obesity which can bring on lots of other medical issues. Fat stored from stress is predominantly stored around the abdomen, which is very dangerous and highly associated with the development of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Elevated Cortisol levels, resulting from chronic stress have been associated with conditions such as increased body fat, decreased muscle mass, decreased bone density, reduced Libido, increased anxiety, mood swings, increased Depression, memory and learning impairment

 So to conclude, we need to accept that stress is a part of daily life. Stress is not the cause of the problem. It is a result of the world we live in and the choices we make. Your choices will allow you to control your stress, instead of letting it control you. If stress has less of a negative influence on you, then fat burning becomes easier.

I hope this gives you a basic understanding of stress and it’s effects on the body.

Keep fit and healthy, Remember Health is Wealth

Emma x