Weight Management is More than Nutrition

Weight Management is More than Nutrition

How Stress, Exercise and Sleep Affect Weight

Tara Johnson - CFL2

Managing your weight and overall wellbeing is a trifecta of Nutrition, Training and Recovery. How we approach stress, 

Stress can be a major contributor to weight gain. Stress can trigger cortisol release, and that little bugger of a hormone, meant to give you energy to survive back in the caveman days, causes the modern, not a caveman human to simply store fat around the middle. Stress can also make you crave comfort foods, the quick carbs that release dopamine while giving you energy to respond to a fight or flight reaction your body may be having in response to stress. 

Sure, your brain may know that your stress reaction isn’t because you’re being chased by a lion, but your body doesn’t. When I feel like I’m not in control of things happening around me (hello global pandemic) I could control what I was putting in my mouth, and a giant bowl of Fruity Pebbles® was just the ticket to feeling better. That full sated feeling coupled by the sweet taste brings me back to a simpler time, Saturday mornings in front of the TV when I had no worries, at least not the kind that really keep you up at night. 

We were poor, welfare kids too, so on the first of the month, when the food stamps came, we had food! Lots of food! Lots of tasty, yummy spaghetti in a can and ramen food! I associated having food with being ok because towards the end of the month, when money and food were scarce, that’s when the household stress was the highest – as the month wore on – the house got rougher and magically, with the arrival of a new month, stress was scarce and food was abundant. It made me associate food security with life security. Feeling full feels stress-less.  

As I’ve grown, and surpassed my childhood financial situation, I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t the food that brought us joy, but the stress relief of financial security. Managing stress has to happen outside the kitchen – where the abs are made. I’m a big fan of putting my feet to the soil when I’m stressed now, or simply taking a walk and removing myself from the source of stress so I can gain perspective. I know that understanding things, getting context helps me deal with stress. If I can find the reason, it makes coping easier. 

Exercise has also been a lifesaver for me, and likely everyone else that has to put up with me.

The barbell doesn’t talk back, the slamball doesn’t cry if you hurl in across a room, no harm, no foul and all the stress expressed in a positive way. I train five days a week as is with a mix of weightlifting, nonstructural and gymnastics movements as a CrossFit® Level 2 Trainer. Training is as natural to me as brushing my teeth now, but in the beginning, it was something I had really had to work on to prioritize and schedule. I had to just put my head down and do the work until it became habit. Realizing the benefits that I could see, and feel were what kept me coming back. Feeling stronger, seeing the weights go up while my time at the work went down. Noting the small achievements that were adding up to big achievements really helped me solidify #trainingformylife. 

Don’t get me wrong, I would still love to be able to down chips and chill on the couch and achieve bliss, but I don’t think that’s worked for anyone yet – not really if they’re being honest.

Now sleep, that’s the part of the Exercise-Nutrition-Recovery triangle that is the most underrated, and the least achieved. Getting 7-9 hours a day/night is critical to hormone balance, muscle recovery, and overall wellbeing, but most of us are getting between 4-6 most nights. Talk about brain fog, cranky pants, hangry human making behavior! 

The things that kill my sleeping buzz are most often that not-so-smart phone scrolling, or simply staying up to do the mom work to prep for the next day. Trying to get all the “things” done before bed is a stress response in hopes of going to bed without so much on my mind, but also steals away hours every week. Asking for help and delegating is one good way to avoid that, and breaking up the tasks into smaller, through the day tasks may help too. 

The other sleep thief for me is “monkey mind”. I have ADHD, like phycologist diagnosed ADHD and while most days I excel with it, at night, it’s like chasing monkeys holding random thoughts and getting them to slow and quiet down is a big challenge for me. Most recently, a friend turned me on to listening to 417Hz, and different sounds soundtracks to help me quiet the monkeys. I also listen to a daily devotion from Lutheran Hour Ministries. That few uninterrupted minutes of devotion do a lot for me in understating my purpose and calms me into a restful state, perfect for sleepy time! 

Everyone has a “thing” that can help, we’re all just a little trial and error from finding all the “things”.

Tara Johnson is a CrossFit® Level 2 Instructor and Owner of Jordan’s Barbell Club – Personal and Group Training. She specializes in 1:1 Nutrition and Fitness Coaching, and Lifestyle Rearrangement


Image Credit: https://sossafetymagazine.com/health-and-well-being/i-feel-like-im-being-chased-by-a-lion-anxiety-in-children/


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