Friday, 21 September 2018

Is stress the cause of your unwanted waistline?

Are you convinced you don’t eat ‘that much’ yet you keep putting on the weight? Do you exercise yet you’re still putting on weight? Are you dieting and not losing weight? Well maybe the problem is stress.

That ‘spare tire’ or 'muffin top’ or those ‘love handles' could well be down to your lifestyle not just your food intake. 

As a teacher, the best thing about September and the new school year was that my waistline would have decreased over the summer. I always put it down to being more active and better eating habits, but actually it was equally likely that it was the only time of the year I was stress-free, and stress-free long enough for it to have an impact on my body. 

Stress generates cortisol

When we are stressed, our body releases the hormone cortisol as part of our fight or flight response. Stress is helpful at times to give us motivation, but too much of it for too long can cause health problems, for example it’s associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Cortisol changes to the way that our body metabolises glucose and how much energy our muscles burn. Constant release of cortisol may increase our risk of developing insulin resistance, raises our blood sugar, alters our appetite, reduces our ability to burn fat and increases the rate at which we store fat. 

Lack of sleep, strict diets and exhausting exercise regimes create stress

While we might cheer at some stress when it causes a loss in appetite, long-term or chronic stress can increase your hunger as it results in higher insulin levels which means your blood sugar levels drop causing you to crave sugary, fatty foods. So instead of the healthy foods you would usually eat, you crave comfort foods These are the same consequences as sleep deprivation. 

If you have been keeping to a strict diet you may be stressed - worrying about the number of calories and what you can eat is stressful and if you have been dieting for more than 3 weeks you are at risk of creating metabolic damage which increases cortisol which may further reduce your metabolism. 

If you are doing a strenuous work out every day for an extended time, you may be causing the over release of cortisol and your belly will be stubbornly refusing to disappear. 

The more stress you are under, and the longer you are under that stress, the more severe your symptoms are likely to be:

  • Permanent low energy
  • Weight gain especially on the waistline
  • Needing caffeine and carbs to keep you going
  • Energy crash in mid afternoon
  • Second wind in the evening
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning 
  • Cravings for sugary foods
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Decreased tolerance to stressful situations
  • Mood changes and feeling depressed or anxious
  • Racing mind 
  • Feeling burned out

So instead of crashing on the sofa, grabbing a glass of wine and comfort foods in the evening and putting yourself at risk of diabetes, what can you do to alleviate the stress and get rid of that belly?

  1. Address the source of the stress. This may be easier said than done in many cases but the problem cannot be resolved without this.  Stress can be divided into different categories and you could even be suffering stress as a result of several sources, so tackle a bit at a time.
    • Physical - over-exercising, not sleeping, long hours
    • Social - Peer pressure, relationship breakdown, bullying, social media/phones
    • Emotional - emotionally draining work, PTSD, worry about deadlines or performance, financial difficulties, grief
    • Environmental - lack of fresh air, noise, ElectroMagneticFields
    • Health-related - chronic conditions, hormones, poor nutrition, depression
  1. Do not restrict your calorie intake for longer than 21 days. Stop and eat sensible to stabilise your weight loss and work out how to eat at that new weight. Choose foods that provide your body with fuel which will actually help you lose weight by giving you energy instead. 
  1. Make sure you exercise to relieve the stress but ensure your exercise routine leaves you energised and that you allow recovery time in between sessions. Low intensity exercise such a yoga is a great option.
  1. Go for a walk to change your environment and increase your energy levels. Even 10 minutes away from your source of stress can improve your resilience to difficult situations. 
  1. When you notice you are stressed, stop what you are doing, acknowledge the feeling, and breathe. Breathe out for longer than you breathe in and push your breathing down to your belly. You can say to yourself 'rest and digest' (the opposite of fight or flight) here as you breathe in and out. 
  1. Reframe the situation - look for the opportunity, look for what you can change, put yourself outside of your situation and advise yourself, re-prioritise.
  1. Practise a visualisation exercise, such as putting yourself in a bubble of your favourite colour or a calming colour, or imagining the person causing you stress as a cartoon character, imagine the situation solved. 
  1. Add a meditation and affirmation to your daily routine. I have a mantra ‘there is always time’ as my stress was the idea that I’m time poor.
  1. Do something creative or listen to your favourite music
  1. Create a wind-down routine for the evening to ensure a good night’s sleep, for example a to-do list to get it down on paper, no phone for an hour before bed, a warm bath. 
  1. Surround yourself with positive people and laughter. Try a laughter yoga class. 
  1. Drink water.
  1. Eat nutrient dense foods: leafy vegetables, fatty fish, oatmeal, probiotic yoghurt, white meat, blueberries, 85% chocolate, avocado, seeds and nuts.
  1. Reduce your caffeine intake. Or instead, green tea and matcha have l-theamine to offset the caffeine they contain so that you don’t get the ‘jitters’.
  1. See your GP if symptoms persist and you need to have your cortisol levels tested as well as support to reduce it in the longer-term. 
  1. Take an adaptogenic herb supplement like Ashwagandha, Holy Basil, or Rhodiola.
  1. Use essential oils. These are some suggestions:.
BasilTo combat fatigue, low energy
BergamotPromotes relaxation and calm in your endocrine system. Slowly breathe the vapours to relax and calm the mind and body when a food craving comes, especially if you are under emotional stress.
Clary SageAfter a long day, treat yourself to a soothing bath with Clary Sage and Lavender. When you know it’s going to be a stressful day, put a drop on the bottoms of your feet or to your pulse points to promote feelings of balance and relaxation.
GrapefruitEncourages a positive relationship with one’s body to counteract obsession with food or dieting. 
LavenderDiffuse to reduce stress improve sleep and combat teeth grinding. Add a few drops to a bath with epsom salts
TangerineInvites creativity to combat feeling overworked, overburdened and overly responsible. 
VetiverProvides a centring effect if you are feeling split between priorities
Ylang YlangGets rid of bottled up emotions
Comforting blend (Console)Soothes emotional pain after periods of extreme stress or trauma.
Joyful blend (Elevation)Reduces emotional stress, teaches worry and fear aren’t productive
Massage blend (Aromatouch)Assists in calming, relaxing and releasing physical tension. 
Reassuring blend (Peace)Created to assist inner peace through connection.
Renewing blend (Forgive)To reduce overwhelm that is creating cynicism and negativity
Restful blend (Serenity)Reduces emotional overload, anxiousness and disconnection to create a feeling of calm and relaxation
Tension blend (PastTense)Relieves headaches caused by stress

Monday, 10 September 2018

Are long hours and lack of sleep driving you to overeat?

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day thinking about food, searching the cupboards for foods to feed my craving for something sweet, making myself snacks, making coffee. No matter what I ate still felt tired. Nothing really gave me the energy boost I needed. 

It was a long day and eventually it dawned on me that I often used to feel like that all the time but I had forgotten what it felt like. When I was teaching, I often used to think I need a cup of coffee to get my brain in gear, I’ll just have a biscuit to give me an energy boost, I’ll feel better once I have that flapjack. I never considered it to be out of the ordinary as it was probably my average day.

So how come I felt like this today? The night before I had fallen back into an old behaviour and worked late into the night to complete an important project. For years I would often work until the early hours of the morning to get a task finished so it was an old habit that I found easy to slip back into. I thought it would be okay as I didn’t have to be anywhere for important meetings.

The hunger moderating hormones

But I was wrong. I experienced full blast the effects of sleep deprivation, that feeling where you are so tired you crave fats, carbs and sugar to invigorate you so you can get going and get rid of the brain fog. These feelings are caused by ghrelin and leptin - the hunger moderating hormones. 

Ghrelin signals hunger and leptin suppresses hunger and signals that we are full. When we don’t get enough sleep, our body doesn’t produce these hormones in the right proportion and this leaves us feeling hungry and unable to control our cravings.  It is estimated some people eat an extra 300-600 calories a day when they don’t get enough sleep.  

In addition, when we don’t sleep our cortisol levels increase which disrupts our blood glucose levels causing cells to become insulin resistant, which is a precursor for type 2 diabetes as well as weight gain. 

Just 30 fewer minutes sleep a night can increase our risk of getting diabetes or becoming obese. 

So yesterday I ate more than usual. drank two cups of coffee despite not drinking coffee other than weekends any more. And I still felt like rubbish and tired by bedtime. 

So what have I learned? Not to slip back into old habits of being task centred. To know when to say time for bed and to honour to those great routines I have created to manage my wellbeing, my productivity and my weight. 

Is lack of sleep causing your weight gain? Take the leap and create a new routine that allows your body to work with you to manage your weight. Need help to manage your barriers to weight loss? Join my Facebook Group Shift your Mindset Shift your Weight at or book a free discovery call with me at and let’s explore if we’re a match and how I can help. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Is your weight impacting your income?

Did you know that people judge others’ competence based on their weight? And that affects whether they hire and how much they pay. Shocking, isn’t it? And this bias is mostly felt by white women who are already battling the glass ceiling.  

First impressions really do count

This weight-bias, which is often unconscious, is apparently worst at the point of hiring, possibly because people make snap judgements based on appearance where they have no familiarity of the person's skills: judgements such as ‘if you can’t look after yourself, then how can you look after my business’. 

If you are in sales, PR or spend time networking, then you could also be a victim of ‘quick judgements’. We are wired to make a judgement about someone new within seconds and then we look for evidence to confirm that judgement. So if your shirt button has come undone, the person you are meeting will either decide you’ve put on so much weight your clothes don’t fit or that you’ve had a hectic morning and you’ve not noticed you missed a button in your hurry - the difference in judgement being their perception of your weight. 

As a manager, if you have a democratic or laissez-faire style of leadership, through the lens of weight bias your colleagues who perceive you as overweight may describe you as lazy. 

Weight inversely influences salary

According to research in the US, weight can also influence your salary with differences amounting to thousands of dollars. Not only did women’s salaries decrease as they put on weight, but underweight women had higher salaries than women of ‘average’ weight, potentially due to representations of ‘ideal’ and ‘attractive’ body types in the media.  By contrast, men were likely to earn less for being underweight and only likely to earn less again once they became obese.

Confidence issues compound the problem

From personal experience, I found my confidence levels changed as I put on weight. I became more self-conscious about what I was wearing, what people said about me and how they were looking at me. I felt I had to work harder to get recognition for my abilities and was less likely to be considered for promotion. Certainly my career stagnated about the time I had put on lots of weight. 

What can you do?

I certainly don’t support this culture of body shaming and prejudice and believe it should be tackled alongside every other form of discrimination - in law and in the work place. However just like Cheryl Sandberg who urged women to ‘lean in’ while waiting for policy and systems to address gender bias in the workplace, so I urge overweight women to decide whether to challenge, manage or change.

Challenge: When you look around you, how many female members of your senior leadership are overweight? Is that a statistic that needs to be addressed? 

Manage: Create a strong brand image by investing in good quality clothing with a fashionable and flattering cut and design, rather than the ‘baggy look’ so often worn to hide an expanding waistline. Add to that an edgy hair cut, on trend accessories and 'acting slim', you can undermine the stereotype that people become dishevelled and don’t care about their looks as they gain weight. 

Change: In the UK 58% of women were designated overweight in 2015. If you don’t want to be that person, be that statistic or earn less than you're worth, you don't need to resort to an extreme diet, you just need to review your lifestyle to work out the behaviours that are contributing to your weight gain. In the first place keep a diary which will allow you to monitor your eating patterns, sleep and stress patterns and work out the most important habits to change for greatest impact.  

If you would like support to get you back on track and kick ass in your world again or would like support to get your body and confidence back to smash the glass ceiling, message me at 
and we can discuss how I can help you transform your relationship with food. 
 Or join my Facebook Group Shift your Mindset, Shift your Weight

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