The surprising reason you might not be losing weight
It’s been months now … You’ve been eating a good, balanced range of wholefood in reasonable portions. You get your 10,000 steps each and every day, plus you’ve been putting in three or four decent workouts as well. You’ve been ensuring you drink at least two litres of water daily, too. But for some reason you don’t seem to be able to shift any weight.
If that’s the case, you should make an appointment to see your GP to ensure there’s not an underlying medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid, that can be treated. If it’s not that, however, start looking at an other lifestyle factor.
How are your stress levels?
When someone explains it to you it seems so obvious. We are primeval creatures, controlled partially by our subconscious. Way back when we were roaming the earth and clubbing predators, stress meant our lives were at risk. Adrenaline increased the heart rate, elevated blood pressure and boosted energy (so we could run fast), while cortisol increased the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and shut down other systems – immune functions, reproduction and digestion – to give the body its best chance of survival.
The problem is that our modern brains don’t know the difference between stress caused by being swooped by a pterodactyl or living through a famine and stress caused by a difficult boss, problems at home and money worries. It reacts in the same way. So, if you’re constantly stressed, your body is constantly creating cortisol and its having the same effect on your body, which is unlikely to be experiencing famine.
Managing stress levels
You probably can’t make the annoying boss, constant deadlines and relationship issues vanish (although you’d be well advised to do anything possible – changing jobs, seeing a therapist – to help get them under control), but there are some strategies you can use to lower stress levels for the majority of your day. Here are 10 simple ways to lower stress levels.
- When you wake up in the morning, stand tall in the shower and take four or five deep breaths. Anxiety causes short, sharp breaths into the chest, but breathing deep into your belly can give you quick relief. You can even say, “I breathe out stress and tension” when you exhale. If you have more time, sit or lie on the floor (or anywhere else that’s comfortable), close your eyes and practise deep breathing for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Make regular meditation part of your self-care routine. If you don’t know how to start, find a local class or download an app for your phone. Some people meditate by lying down and clearing their mind; others are more prone to be able to stop their thundering brain if they’re in nature. If active meditation – some people swear by swimming, staring at the black line and counting strokes (one, two, three, four, breathe), as a way to clear the mind – suits you then go with it.
- Practise yoga or stretching.
- Fill a bath with water and Epsom salts and have a good soak.
- If you feel as though you have to be doing something every minute of the day, actually diarise yoga, meditation, sitting watching the birds or deep breathing, so that you do it.
- Look at other activities that make you relax by clearing your mind, whether that’s reading a book or doing some colouring in.
- Put away your phone. Constant scrolling through news reports and social media is a sure-fire way to raise anxiety levels.
- Go easy on yourself. When it comes to blame, we often give other people leniency for bad behaviour. We need to be able to give ourselves the same latitude to make mistakes and forgive ourselves.
- Practise gratitude. Before you try to go to sleep at night, write down the three best things that happened during the day and the three things for which you feel most grateful. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to your state of mind, flipping it from the negative and anxious thoughts that flood our mind to an attitude of positivity.
- Of course, you should always try to get eight hours of sleep each night. Not only does it help with stress levels but you won’t be tempted to control exhaustion during the day with caffeine and sweet treats.