This leads me beautifully onto the discussion of how things can not go exactly to plan, even when (on paper) it should be working. Now, I've had a relatively stress free week. I finished my exams, went home over the weekend, have had lots of sleep and plenty of good food. However, when I do get stressed I am an absolute nightmare. My sleeping habits fly out of the window and I take so little care of myself. I'm usually incredibly regimented with my regime but when I'm ill or stressed it's like it never existed. That being said, I've experienced stress in relation to weight on two contrasting sides of the spectrum.
In my opinion, and I own the fact that this can only go as far as my experience allows, either my eating goes haywire and I NEED all of the biscuits, cheese, sandwiches to comfort myself in times of distress. As you will no doubt see, this means that I would generally gain weight at these times. Or, on the switch side, I also go through times of stress where I simply do not wish to eat. Food becomes the last thing on my mind and I'll eat at strange times in the day just because I need something to keep going. Unfortunately, in the latter scenario often that something to keep you going isn't all that healthy. This starts a vicious cycle whereby when you return to normal and start to eat as you once did, your body comes out of a state of Ketosis and screams 'WHY WERE YOU STARVING ME!?!?!? I know, I'll store whatever you eat as fat' and you gain weight...joy. Then you get stressed again and repeat the process all over.
Stress is a very strange biological process and you'll forgive my GCSE biology here. The hormones released when you tell your body that you are in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation ultimately want to produce one reaction. Fight or flight. This means that other processes in the body, those which are unnecessary to the self preservationist reaction, slow down. This includes your metabolic rate and includes increased storage of fat. In addition, your body produces hormones similar to those in starvation mode which (can) make you want to eat more and stores this 'more' as fat. As such, even if you're not over eating, your body can be producing long term energy stores as fat. Further to all of this, stress has some other nasty responses such as sluggish digestion and the potential for stomach ulcers. Basically, stress can make eating and digesting very uncomfortable and inefficient which is never a good thing.
This is where the problem with losing weight comes in. Lucy, my friend in university who is also on Weight Watchers with me, went in to the meeting today thinking that she'd probably gained a few pounds as a result of stress from exams and other external factors. We agreed in the car on the way in that no matter what happened we'd stay on track this week because a one week blip isn't the end of the world. She put on 1/2 lb so there wasn't all that much damage and she managed to keep her total weight loss to the point of having lost her first 5%. However, this wasn't a result of massive overeating or not tracking. Lucy is still one of the most organised trackers I've ever met. She brings scales and measuring spoons to meals and absolutely everything that goes in her mouth gets recorded. Yes her exercise levels have been dropped with revision commitments but she still was within her points allowance and should (on paper) have lost weight. This is where stress can have a really detrimental effect on your weight loss. She and I are just lucky that we have each other (and our previous successes) to keep us going. It would be so very easy to get disheartened in these situations, where sometimes losing weight feels like the only thing you have control over.
Obviously, I don't want to put a list of 'stress reducing' activities here. Everyone responds differently to different things. Where some need absolute silence, a warm bath and a good night's sleep others need to go boxing or for a 10 mile run. So what works for you, works for you. This is just a reminder that sometimes (at least it feels this way) your body's natural responses seem to be working against you. It's just a case of remembering that this too, will pass and that we cannot be defined by a simple number on a scale. Stress will always have the potential of popping up, we don't live in isolation. It's a case of trying to be prepared and moving forward when things don't go exactly to plan.
And finally, this is just something I found the other day that feels poignant in this discussion.
An arrow can only be shot by being dragged backwards. Sometimes being held back is nature's way of propelling you into something great. Cheesy, I know but I likes it.
|And for those who got to the end and suffered through my arrow quote, a picture of the lovely Jennifer Lawrence as Catniss Everdeen. Enjoy|