Losing weight is simple. Simple doesn’t equal easy. Simple if you subscribe to “calories in vs. calories out”. You eat a number of calories and you burn a number of calories for energy – if calories burned is larger than calories eaten, then you have weight loss – simple.
It is just like your monthly budget. You earn X amount and spend Y amount if X is larger than Y then you accumulate savings over time. The same with fat on your body. Except for the fact that your body is not a check book. You are a living organism. Calories in is not as important as calories absorbed. Calories burned can lead to calorie-cravings etc. etc. etc.
But this is not going to be a discussion about that conundrum, it is a look at stress and weight loss. Stress and weight loss go hand in hand.
Let me explain. Your body wants to be in “equilibrium”. Maintain the status quo. Pushing outside the status quo in either direction is a stressor. Some “stress” is good as it pushes our body to adapt and become stronger over time. The right amount of stress will constantly keep your body adapting and getting stronger, but too much and it will accumulate over time and cause bad chronic stress.
Stressors can come from many sources. Physical activity is just one of them. Work can be another. Sources does not really matter as they all impact the same destination – you.
This is an important point.
Stressors no matter the origin is all processed by the same organism, being your body. As explained earlier this is fine as long as the body is able to adapt and get stronger over time. But put too much stress on your body – not only physical – and the body loses its ability to adapt.
People who have been training for years following structured programs will have noticed this. You can run the exact same program twice and not get the same results. Not just meaning that you would not progress as much, because obviously progress slows down the stronger you get, but you can stall or even go backwards the second time you run the exact same program.
There are multiple factors to this, nutrition being a big part of it, but another underlying issue can be your bodies current sense of stress. If you have a very busy period at work, are amid a break-up or dealing with other big issues in your life, then chances are that asking your body to also cope with restitution after training is just the last drop that tips the balance.
Under normal circumstances for people that are somewhat active I would almost always suggest working up to HIIT (high intensity interval training). I am a firm believer in the effects of HIIT vs. low intensity as stairmaster, biking etc. for longer periods of time. The burst of energy needed to perform HIIT has advantages both to signal your body to keep the muscles it has already built but it also leads reduction in appetite.
But for high stress individuals HIIT would throw them properly out of balance and in a downward spiral. Their body would already be coping with too much stress so the impact of HIIT would make them unable adapt and lead to exhaustion, increased risk of injuries ect.
So how do we handle weight loss for high stress individuals? Should they be on the stairmaster, cross trainer or bike for extended periods of time? Not in my opinion.
The best prescription for high stress individuals is in my opinion walking. Good old primordial walking. Not for time, not for distance, just incorporate more walking into the daily lives.
Of course people can plan to take the walks, but the easiest solution is actually just to look at the daily routine and see where additional walking can fit in. For some people this can be as simple as departing the train or bus a stop or two before and walk the remainder. It can be parking the car a little further from the actual workplace. It can be walking to pick up groceries instead of driving. Even at work it is possible to foster walking by going to the farthest toilet instead of the closest. Getting coffee from the machine on another floor etc. etc. Just change a few small things and get in some extra steps each day.
And then after that then it can be taking a walk after work or in the evening. I prefer to walk without any other stimulus. Some people prefer to listen to music, some people prefer podcasts or perhaps use the walk to call and catch up with old friends. But for me the best part is just leisurely walks without anything and without any real goal apart from just walking. We are so fed up with input fighting for our attention that a good walk with nothing else than the environment around you to pay attention to can be more than a low stress workout for your body it can also help clear and nourish your over-reactive mind.
The good thing with walking in relation to high stress individuals is that it puts almost no additional stress on the body. Doing even low intensity workouts for 30 minutes where you build up a sweat, still puts stress on your body. Leisurely walking does not.
So, if you are hit by a lot of stress, or perhaps is in a situation where your regular workout maxes out our potential for recovery while still wanting to lose a little weight, then try incorporating more walking into your days. It is seriously underrated both for your body and your mind.