While FitMate’s mission is to help you stay motivated to adopt and maintain healthy routines to fuel weight loss, we know there is a strong negative link between stress and weight loss. That’s why we don’t focus solely on the physical aspects of losing weight. Numerous factors affect how you can lose weight beyond what you eat and how much you exercise. Stress is one of the biggest factors that can undermine your efforts to lose weight and maintain your weight loss.
Why Is Stress One of the Most Underrated Aspects of Weight Loss Motivation?
Stress doesn’t just affect you emotionally, it affects you physically. While the emotional impact of stress can lead to overeating, the physical impacts of stress are even greater. Stress impacts your mental ability to stay motivated and adopt the healthy habits that are necessary for weight loss. It also changes your body chemistry in a way that inhibits weight loss.
Positive Impact of Stress on Motivation For Some People
Before we go into all the difficulties, let’s just address a known fact about stress. Sometimes stress can make you feel more motivated to make changes in your life. It can give you a short-lived boost to suddenly transform. Can stress and anxiety cause weight loss? Yes, it can but maybe not in the healthiest way.
Stress can sometimes act as a catalyst when you are dealing with situations that are out of your control. Those out-of-control situations make you want to get into control so you start to focus on the things that are within your control - like weight loss. Your desire to get out of the stressful out-of-control situation and get into a controlled one can often lead to strict food and exercise regimes that can result in weight loss.
Everyone has a different coping mechanism for when they're stressed. While some people might overeat to feel better, others can exercise to feel better as exercise increases the release of feel-good endorphins. If you’re in the latter group of copers, the increased exercise activity can have a positive impact on weight loss for the short term.
How Does Stress Affect Motivation?
Stress can directly impact the very things you need to do to lose weight. Maintaining motivation for weight loss involves implementing several proven routines such as setting clear goals, planning effectively, and celebrating small victories. Stress can disrupt these drivers.
Not Achieving Weight Loss Goals
When you see even an ounce of weight loss it encourages you because you know you can do it again if you maintain your routine. When you achieve small wins you feel motivated to continue adopting new healthy directives in your life so you can continue winning. Stress can disrupt your ability to experience those highs.
For example, significant life changes, such as job loss, moving, or family issues can disrupt your routine. Even the most resilient of people can feel the stress of a disrupted routine. This disruption can affect meal planning, shopping for healthy foods, and maintaining an exercise schedule. That can also mean the routines you adopted to get your wins drop by the wayside and the progress you were making suddenly falls off.
Stress also affects your body on a very real physical level by increasing your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels negatively affect your metabolism which makes weight loss more difficult. When you don’t see any weight loss, it makes you feel less motivated to adopt and maintain healthy routines.
When you’re highly stressed you may also resort to overeating to find comfort, which then means you are consuming more calories than your body needs. As a result, your body stores those extra calories in the form of fat and reduces your body’s ability to lose weight.
Disruptions in Planning
When you’re stressed, you are more prone to ignore your schedules and plans. No matter what it is you are trying to accomplish, planning is always key. Planning plays a crucial part in staying motivated on your weight loss journey. When you plan, you can stick to goals from week to week because you make time for those goals. However, the physical and mental fatigue of stress can make it difficult to follow your plans or make plans at all.
Shifts in Priorities
When you experience stress, you also experience a shift in priorities because you automatically start prioritizing the situation at hand. Long-term goals you may have been prioritizing, like weight-loss end up sitting on the backburner.
You always end up accomplishing whatever is a priority to you. The thing that is a priority to you is always at the forefront of your mind. If you want to lose weight you need to be motivated to do it by keeping weight loss and why you want to lose weight at the forefront of your mind.
However, when you’re stressed, the things that are stressing you sit at the forefront of your mind. That results in your weight loss goal being pushed back and out of the priority list. When that happens, weight loss is no longer a priority, and when it is not a priority, it is difficult to hit the goals you were hitting before the stressor.
How to Combat Stress
While common stress management techniques may work for some, they often only address the symptoms rather than the root cause of stress. For instance, going for a walk when you feel the urge to stress eat might not be effective for everyone. Searching for supplements for stress and weight loss is not much better. To truly combat stress, especially stress that reduces weight loss due to stress and depression, it's crucial to delve deeper and address the root cause.
Identify the Root Cause of Stress
When you can figure out the root cause of your stress, you can take action to mitigate the effect of that stress on your weight loss plan. One of the best ways to figure out what is causing your stress is journaling. Journaling can be a sort of meditation for weight loss and stress management. The act of writing itself can help reduce stress levels.
- Start by describing in detail the entity or situation causing you stress and its consequences. Brainstorm as many ways as possible to decrease that stress. Remember, these don't have to be actionable or reasonable plans at this stage.
- Next, consider what people and resources you could reach out to for help with this stress. If you had to enact a plan today to deal with the stress, what would that plan look like? Describe it in detail.
- Finally, envision how carrying out this plan might affect the people around you and whether would it increase or decrease your stress. Reflecting on this can help you get a better understanding of the stress and how to reduce and eventually eliminate it.
This process of identifying the root cause of stress is not only therapeutic but also empowers you with insights to develop a strategic plan to combat stress. It's a proactive approach that goes beyond treating symptoms, aiming to eliminate the source of stress, which can significantly improve your weight loss motivation.
Take a Pause Before Eating
In moments of stress, our bodies often respond to food cravings, a phenomenon that can hinder weight loss efforts. However, by incorporating a simple yet effective technique, you can manage these cravings and potentially curb emotional eating. When a craving strikes, instead of immediately giving in, take a pause. This pause allows you to assess your hunger levels objectively. Ask yourself, "Am I really hungry, or am I responding to stress?" Rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being fully satiated and 10 being ravenous.
If you find that your hunger level is high (at least 6/10), opt for a protein-rich snack. Protein can help you feel fuller for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating. However, if you find that you're not truly hungry (at most 4/10), your craving is likely emotional, triggered by stress. In such cases, consider other ways to combat stress. You could drink a glass of water, as sometimes our bodies confuse thirst with hunger. Alternatively, wait for about 15 minutes, cravings often pass with time.
You can also replace stress eating with another stress management technique. Popular techniques include calling a friend, taking a hot bath, going for a walk, or watching a movie. Deep breathing exercises can also be beneficial. By taking a pause before eating, you allow yourself to respond to stress in a healthier way. This not only aids in weight loss but also helps in developing a better relationship with food. Remember, the goal is not to achieve perfection but to make progress in managing stress and how it affects your ability to adopt healthy habits.
Stress Relief Techniques That Can Help
Various stress relief techniques can help you relax and manage stress before it escalates. Fitmate coaches have a few favorites that help their clients over and over again.
Breathing exercises are a simple yet powerful tool for stress management. They work by activating your body's natural relaxation response, which can reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Committing to daily deep breathing exercises can help set a positive tone for your day.
Simple Breathing Exercise for Stress Management
Sit comfortably with a straight spine, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. As you breathe, pay attention to the rise and fall of your abdomen.
Don't worry if your mind wanders. This is normal, especially when you're starting. Whenever you notice your mind drifting, gently bring your attention back to your breath without forcing it.
This practice of mindful breathing can help you stay centered and calm in the face of stress. Over time, you may find that it becomes a natural part of your daily routine to help you manage stress and effectively move forward in your weight loss journey.
Taking Time for Yourself
When you purposefully decide to take self-care time, you not only have a higher regard for yourself, but you also manage stress. When you carve time out for yourself you are engaging in an activity that brings you joy and that helps you manage stress. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, it can be anything from getting your nails done to joining a painting class.
Whatever helps you feel relaxed and gives you joy reduces your stress and brings your cortisol levels back down to normal. That gives you the ability to once again have the desire and focus to stick to the healthy routines you need for your weight loss.
Disconnecting digitally, such as avoiding technology in bed or setting aside specific times to be offline, can help clear your mind and boost your energy. When you have more energy and your mind feels less stressed, it is easier to get back to planning and prioritizing your weight loss goals.
How a Weight Loss Coach Can Help You Establish Stress Management Techniques?
Everyone gets stressed at one time or another, however coping with that stress can be difficult when you’re trying to lose weight and manage a stressful life. Stress management techniques often require a disciplined approach that can be difficult to figure out how to do all on your own. To help with your weight loss journey, a weight loss coach can motivate you, advise you on managing stress, and keep you accountable. All of those things make it easier for you to adopt healthy habits and routines that are the wheels to helping you hit your weight loss goals.
The Bottom Line: Learning How to Cope with Stress
Learning how to cope with stress is a fundamental part of a successful weight loss journey. It not only has an immediate impact on your weight but also affects your motivation to adopt healthy habits. Even if you can't eliminate stress, you can learn to manage it better and limit its impact on your weight loss journey. While food and exercise are important in weight loss, stress is a huge factor that not many people know about. When you can get your stressors under control enough to manage them, you will lose weight more effectively.
You will e surprised at how much of an impact managing your stress can make on your body’s ability to drop the pounds and help you feel like a better, healthier version of yourself. Fitmate coaches know how to to utilize proven techniques to help you lose weight while realizing the weight of other factors like stress so they can provide you with holistic solutions to losing weight and maintaining your weight loss in the years to come. Learn more about what it's like to work with a 1:1 coach, by checking out Fitmate success stories and take our quiz to see if you're right for the program.