If there’s one common thread that I see across almost all our clients at New Image, it’s that people are stressed.
We’re working longer hours, commuting further, doing more for our kids and sleeping less.
A little bit of stress is ok. In fact I’d dare say that if you’re not experiencing occasional stress, you’re not trying hard enough! Mild stress motivates us to achieve and complete tasks and perform better. Stress helps us meet deadlines and push ourselves through mild discomfort.
At New Image, we even design our training programs to stress your body, and then allow for recovery. This is how we instigate change.
But stress becomes a problem when it’s chronic. Our stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are supposed to increase in times of short-term stress and then return to normal.
Chronic stress absolutely makes us fat
Even if you’re eating well and exercising consistently, we believe that stress management is just as important for weight control.
Stress disrupts our sleep, blood sugar regulation and hunger hormones. Inevitably this leads to increased appetite and comfort eating. And we all know that when we’re under the pump, it’s never healthy, balanced meals that we reach for.
So what can we do to get stress under control?
If you’re serious about fat loss, you need to prioritise stress management. This is hard for most of us as it means putting ourselves first! At the end of the day, when you prioritise your own needs and learn to hit the pause button, everyone benefits.
Before we go any further, I need to emphasise this. If you’re EXTREMELY stressed, the answer is NOT to train more and sleep less. Listen to your body and REST. A lot of our clients when under stress want to “blow off steam” with a big intense training session. This isn’t always the best thing to do as it can actually add to your stress levels.
There are simple behaviour changes you can make before stress reaches a crisis point.
Your workouts have the power to both relieve stress and exacerbate already high stress levels. We always keep in mind our clients’ current stress levels when we design their programs. We can also use the right types of training to help the body better adapt to stress.
- Exercise in any form is a great stress reliever. Make sure to move your body daily.
- Aerobic exercise stimulates production of endorphins, our bodies’ natural painkillers and mood elevators.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most efficient way to burn fat and can ELEVATE stress hormones in a productive way. It trains your body to deal with and recover from stress. Complete HIIT style workouts 2-3 times a week and keep them short.
- Strength training is vital for EVERYBODY and is a great stress reliever.
- Bring self awareness to your workouts. If you’re feeling really stressed, tell your trainer so we can make a conscious adjustment to intensity.
Chronic lack of sleep is strongly associated with decreased immunity, alertness and concentration.
Simple steps you can implement to promote more, better quality, sleep include:
- Go to bed by 10pm every night
- Turn electronic devices off 1 hour before bed
- Dim the lights at night
- Have a warm shower or bath with epsom salts
- Drink herbal tea with chamomile or lavender.
Learn to carve out time for yourself. Be disciplined about it. If at first it feels selfish or indulgent, push through that discomfort! Taking time to switch off regularly is better than trying to keep all the balls in the air and burning out.
- Meditation is great, but just taking 1 minute out of your day three times a day to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and focus on your breath is a great exercise in mindfulness and slowing everything right down.
- Make time every week to do small things that you enjoy.
- Balance work, family and social commitments.
- Get comfortable with saying NO! Not every moment of your day has to be scheduled and accounted for.
Focus on balanced meals that follow our basic plate model: half a plate of non-starchy veggies, a fist sized portion of carbs, a palm sized portion of protein and a thumb sized portion of healthy fats.
- Lay off the booze, caffeine, juice and soft drinks.
- Limit takeaway and fast foods if you can. Usually high in sugar, salt and fat, these meals leave you feeling lethargic, drained and less alert and creative.