Today, I was speaking to a friend about my relationship with weight. As soon as my stress decreases, my stomach (pooch if you want to call it that) disappears. "Why is that?" he asked. "It's because of your body's response to stress hormones," I told him. However, I was talking less about his body and more about women's bodies.
You've probably met several women who have started strict weight loss diets, only to fall off the diet and quickly regain the weight (if they ever lost any at all). That woman and any onlooker probably claimed it was a lack of willpower that caused her to fall off the wagon. Meanwhile, you've probably heard a man ask, "What's so difficult about losing weight? Eat less, work out more."
The truth is, for most of us, losing weight is about more than 'calories in, calories out'. Such a simple equation may work great in mathematics and physics (Total Energy In = Total Energy Out), however it does not apply so well to the human body. Why doesn't it apply perfectly? Hormones are one reason why. They are an especially important factor in women's weight.
Mental, physical and emotional stress release stress hormones in our bodies. Testosterone is a short-term stress hormone. When released, it signals to our body that there is immediate danger. I.E. There is a Tiger in front of us, and we need to choose "fight or flight." Cortisol, on the other hand, is a long-term stress hormone. When released, it signals to our body that there is a long-term, sustained level of stress. I.E. There is a famine. Our body responds by stockpiling whatever it can around our organs (heart, lungs, stomach, etc.) to protect them as the body starts to wither away. Women, who biologically need a good amount of fat for reproduction and child bearing, are more likely to have their bodies revert to fat-storage and body protection when facing sustained stress.
Today, many people handle long term, sustained levels of stress. In my life, my new job has a steep learning curve where I struggle every day to learn enough to accomplish the mission and the challenges handed to me. For many women in particular, but also men, dieting is a source of long-term, sustained stress. Their mental dialogue sounds a bit like: "I can eat this, I shouldn’t eat that." "I can't eat past 7:00pm, but I'm so hungry." "When is my cheat day?" For dieters, low-level stress surrounds every meal, every encounter with food (whcih just so happens to be in every store/office building/vending machine).
Eat nutrient dense foods, and eat a lot of them. Eat greens more than once per day. Eat more things that don't come in a box. Eat high quality foods that you enjoy, that you love eating, that make you feel great and leave you feeling very satisfied. As we say in my household, 'We eat like royalty.'