Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dear Stress, Let's break-up.

The other day I was talking to my Pilates teacher Tanja, and I asked her what she did - aside from teaching Pilates - to be in such great shape. Tanja has always a well-trained body, but after giving birth to her son a couple of years ago, she has managed to get into the best shape of her life! She of course eats a healthy (and raw) diet, but one of the other things she mentioned to me was something I hadn't ever thought about before: Stress hormones, and the effect they have on the body's ability to get and stay in shape.

...and then after all of this, you have to pick up the kids,
go to grocery store, AND get in your workout...
Tanja knows me - she knows I'm hardcore, that I like to push myself, and that I know what I've gotta do to get into excellent shape. What Tanja also knows first-hand is burnout, years of lifting weights and over training, and the result - what I'm currently going through now that my body is, essentially, giving out. So, Tanja has recommended a number of changes for me - with my training, with my diet, and very importantly - my stress levels.

Excessive stress - both mentally and physically - will prompt the body's adrenal glands to produce stress hormones, namely, adrenaline and cortisol. And i'm not just talking about work, family, and financial stresses - but also the stress one places on themself to put in enough gym time, eat a strict diet, be stronger, skinnier, faster, etc. When we stress about these things, Cortisol - the body's primary stress hormone - is produced, causing an increase in blood glucose levels (sugar levels). This in turn hinders the body's immune system, digestive system, and various other repair and growth processes. Equally important, Corisol is the hormone that speaks to your brain to control mood and motivation.

(Did you know that stress actually causes your body to crave fatty, sugary, and salty foods?! That's why you go for the tub of ice cream after a long stressful day instead of a salad!)

When stress is present in your life on a regular basis, this creates a number of potential long-term problems, including trouble sleeping, depression/anxiety, digestive problems, and fatigue. ALL of these things will interfere with the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I hadn't realized myself that the primary source of stress I felt in my life was actually the pressure I was putting on myself physically - my constant focus on diet and exercise, and my persistent tendency to never be satisfied. As a result, my body has been producing hormones that actually diminish the work i'm putting in.

We already have enough stresses in life that we cannot avoid - so don't add to it with over-stressing about extra cardio time, forcing workouts when you're tired, eating an overly strict diet, and never feeling like you're doing enough.

If you want results, stress LESS.

Extra tip: Take B vitamins to help regulate mood and stabilize the body's cortisol output and stress levels.

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