This Is Why You Can't Lose Weight

Your boss. Your family. Finances. Death of a loved one. Deadlines. Marriage struggles. Sickness. 1000 emails. Traffic.

Did it stress you out just reading some of those words or phrases?? Stress is inevitable, but it's also why you can't and won't lose weight. No matter how healthy you eat or how hard you work out, if you have a pretty stressful life, I can pretty much guarantee you won't lose weight. Your attempt at Paleo and a gym membership may not be the final answer. I know that's frustrating for many people who think they've finally found the perfect routine.

I want to break down in layman's terms why your body isn't absorbing that healthy food nor responding to those workouts, so you'll better understand how one simple change may help you achieve your health goals (and help you feel more in control of the crazy in your life).

Our bodies were intricately formed and are capable of accomplishing so much due to all the complex systems at work. One of those complex systems is in our gut. The digestive system is where it all starts, so naturally, this is going to have a massive effect on every other system in your body - all the way up to your brain.

Digestive stress is about 25% what we eat and 75% who we are being when we eat. You could be eating a salad for lunch, but if you're eating it while gossiping about coworkers, it's destroying your metabolism and creating digestive upset. This is all due to the stress hormone, cortisol.

effects of cortisol.jpg

This hormone gets a bad wrap in today's society because it makes people fat and angry, but (just like my friend, Fat) Cortisol seems to be very misunderstood! Cortisol has a very significant purpose: to keep us alive and out of danger! Back in the day (way back), we came in contact with animals that could take our life when we were hunting and gathering. Let's say, back in the day, I was out looking for grub, came across a nice antelope, and waited for my perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, a not-so-nice lion wanted that same meal and saw me as a threat, so that beast started running after me instead. My body immediately switches gears to "fight or flight mode" and releases a hefty dose of cortisol to help begin this process of "flight." With the release of that hormone, the blood in my body knows exactly where to go to save my life and is quickly pumped into my arms and legs, so that I can run my ass off away from this lion. Cortisol is amazing!!

The bad part is that although we rarely have to run away from lions today, we do have to run from issues regarding our bosses, kids, coworkers, banks/credit cards, and spouses. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot differentiate between a lion chasing us and our boss yelling at us - it responds the same exact way no matter the cause of that stress. So if my boss is yelling at me, the cortisol is released, and the blood moves away from my gut and into my arms and legs. What's so interesting is that this life-saving mechanism was intended to be temporary, only lasting for a short stint until you escape or get eaten by the lion. In today's world, we are in a chronic state of stress and there's an overflow of cortisol being released throughout the day that is blocking us from properly digesting our food.

If the blood is moving away from your digestive system, the digestive process stops! If you're eating while you're stressed, you are shoving food into your body without a way for it to be processed or absorbed at all, and it's slowing down your metabolism. Have you seen people with (or do you have) the "apple shape" body (ie, the skinny legs and big belly)? Guess what? That's the result of excess cortisol. All the fat accumulates in and around the belly, creating that round midsection.


But I have good news!!! Breathe.

That's the answer: just breathe. We can't eliminate the stress from our lives, but we certainly CAN trick our bodies into thinking we aren't stressed right before we eat; thus, maximizing the efficiency of our digestion and taking it out of survival mode.

We do this by taking nice big inhales and slowly exhaling. I like to call this the 5-5-7 Breath. You inhale for 5 seconds until about 2/3 capacity, hold for 5 seconds, and exhale slowly for 7 seconds (the exhale is usually the hardest part for people).

When you breathe deeply like this, it resets your brain and body to a relaxed state, allowing your blood to flow properly and do all the jobs it needs to do! I would highly recommend doing this a few times before you eat any meal or snack. Just SLOW DOWN for a second. You'll be pleasantly surprised how different your experience will be while eating when you slow yourself down.

Here's to less stress and better digestion!