Could stress be why you can't lose weight?

food hunger stress Oct 11, 2019

It's pretty common for a client to come to me and express that they are eating less than 1,000 calories a day. 


One of the first things I try to explain is hat they are vastly under consuming food for optimal health. 


They always come back with, "but I'm never hungry. Idk how I can eat any more food?"


Why is this? Why is it that someone drastically under consuming food compared to there BMR simply is never hungry?


One of the most common factors that play into this happening is that these types of people are usually very high-stress people. 


Yes, stress can play a major role in your overall hunger and satiety. 


This typically happens because of the two main states of the body...


The Parasympathetic & Sympathetic States.


Two main states operated by the autonomic nervous system of the body. 


The Parasympathetic State, also known as the "Rest & Digest" is responsible for conserving energy, slowing heart rate, and increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract.


When the body is in this state its primary purpose is resting & recovering. And what is a huge part of rest and recovery? Consuming and digesting food. So most likely during this state, your body will be sending signals to the brain that its time to eat and recover before the next bought of stress. 


Hunger isn't necessarily a bad thing. hunger usually means that metabolism is optimal and that your in an optimal sate to rest and recover. during fat, loss of hunger can mean that metabolism is still elevated and that your mobilizing body fat. So don't avoid hunger, it has its time and place. 

The second state of the body, The Sympathetic State, is also known as the "Fight or Flight." 


The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for priming the body for action, particularly in situations threatening survival. 

Sympathetic nervous system stimulation causes vasoconstriction of most blood vessels, including many of those in the skin, the digestive tract, and the kidneys.


This occurs as a result of the activation of alpha-1 adrenergic receptors by norepinephrine released by post-ganglionic sympathetic neurons. These receptors exist throughout the vasculature of the body but are inhibited and counterbalanced by beta-2 adrenergic receptors (stimulated by epinephrine release from the adrenal glands) in the skeletal muscles, the heart, the lungs, and the brain during a sympathoadrenal response.


The net effect of this is shunting of blood away from the organs not necessary to the immediate survival of the organism and an increase in blood flow to those organs involved in intense physical activity.


In Lamon's terms, once the sympathetic state is activated, cortisol and adrenalin are released. one these are released blood circulation is cut off to organs like the skin, digestive tract, and kidneys. and blood is forced to like, skeletal muscle to improve performance. 

I always like to use the example of getting chased to a tiger. If you were running from a tiger right now the last thing your body is going to want to do is rest and digest food. It's going to want to be able to run as fast as possible and survive. 


The human body has no way of understanding where your stress is coming from and everyone's stress is different. So to you being late for work might send the same stress response then you running from a tiger. This might not be just for being late for work. Maybe this same response happens for multiple things throughout the day. 


Now your in this consent sympathetic state and your body is never able to fully rest and digest. 


Can you see how this can cause you not never be hungry or always feel full?


So stress management becomes that much more important. With stress under control, you can enable your body to rest and recover properly. Proper rest and recovery can lead to, improved performance, better fat loss, increased metabolism, better sleep, and a better overall sense of well being. 

So how can you manage your stress? Again, just like stress is very unique to each individual, managing it is also unique. 

But an easy tip is to write down a list of things that relax you. These could be things as simple as going for walk to more time-consuming things like arts and crafts or long drives. 

I would write down a verity of things, some you can do in as little as 10min a some that you can do for extended periods when you have a couple of hours. 


From there I would become more aware of the things that stress you out and work on following each one with a bought of stress-reducing activity. 


Now, this isn't always gonna be perfect. Some times you might not be able to reduce your stress right after. but just make an effort to, at some point in the day, do an activity that reducing your stress and puts you in that parasympathetic state. 

This can truly make a difference in your overall health, results, and mental state. 

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