Hey friends! Last post I talked about 3 health myths I see slowly killing my clients, and dropped truth bombs I hope rocked your world. If not, then just wait. I saved the juiciest and most controversial ones for the end (naturally).
*if you need a refresher, or you still believe lies like fat makes you fat or carbs are the devil, please go read part 1 of this post here!
Alright, Lets dive in to more things you might believe that are making you, sick, overweight, and unhappy!
4. UNDERESTIMATING STRESS
Okay. Before you get all cranky because you think Im telling you something you already know (understandably, because my readers are the smartest;), I think it bears repeating. Year after year the United States remains the most stressed out, over worked country in the world, and I don’t think its because we don’t know that stress is bad. I think its because we all VASTLY underestimate the level of stress we are actually under.
Something I hear all the time from my clients when I first ask them about stress level is something like ‘Im not really stressed. Just busy’ or ‘Nothing bad is happening, im just a little tired that’s all’. We assume because we aren’t undergoing trauma or a major catastrophic life event, we can’t claim the title of being stressed. And if we DO claim that title—due to family caretaking, demanding jobs, or financial struggles—I would still argue that we overlook a lot of what is contributing to our stress load.
I want you to think of a 2 part scale, one side that holds all your stress, and the other that holds all your stress relief. Lets look at the stress side. Most people naturally include financial struggles, job stress, relationship stress maybe, and trauma if they are going through a season of coping. Those all pretty much scream I AM STRESSFUL. So we pile them on the scale. But, what about sleep? Most of the population is chronically sleep deprived, which is a major stressor on your body and has physical consequences like blood sugar dysregulation, weight gain, brain fog, and chronically elevated cortisol . To that we usually reach for another stressor: caffeine. Caffeine is not inherently bad, but under anything but a perfectly relaxed body it can initiate a stress response and raise cortisol levels just the same. Lets pile that on the scale too. And while we’re at it, don’t forget to add busyness (the most common guise for stress), exercise, poor nutrition choices, toxins in our cleaning and beauty care, pollution in the air and water, and—of course—5 oclock traffic that makes you want to punch everyone in the face.
Life is hard. And frustrating. And overwhelming. And would be so much easier if there was an easy button to make all your problems disappear.
The thing is, our body doesn’t segregate stress into emotional, physical, and environmental boxes like your mind might. So while you might think, ‘sure im tired and need coffee, and ive been pretty busy, but im still fine’, your body is just perceiving an influx of stress sources adding to the same overburdened side of the scale. Even good stress, like exercise, can turn harmful if you are adding it to an already overloaded system. (If Im having an emotional or anxious week, my workouts will feel much harder than usual and I don’t recover as well. This is because my body isn’t as available to cope with the stress of recovering from lifting because it’s preoccupied with the stress on my mind or heart).
So, what do we do about it? How do we manage living in a stressful society while guarding ourselves against the life threatening effects of such chronic stress? The answer, my friends, is balance. You need to balance the scale! Do that by a) removing stressors from one side: creating emotional boundaries, cutting ties with toxic people, switching to non toxic beauty care, and prioritizing sleep are great starts. And b) adding more input to the stress relief scale. This is completely dependent on you and what brings you joy and peace. Journal, read the bible, spend alone time with your significant other or close friends, and meditate–yes its hippy dippy. And yes it works. Just try it. By creating a more balanced stress scale, we are creating more balanced bodies. Bodies in balance are not only healthier, but are better equipped to cope with the unavoidable stressors of life that will invariably hit you, like loss or a new baby (adorable, but stressful none the less). Its important to reflect and educate yourself on what your actual stressors are, so you can better remove them.
5. CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT. ITS AS SIMPLE AS THAT.
This over used ‘calories in, calories out’ mantra weve been chanting in gyms all across America is a VAST over simplification for the complex bodily system that is our metabolism.
I remember being at sleepovers as a high schooler and watching as my girlfriends would skip dinner so they could “save their calories” to binge on sour patch kids and Oreos late that night. As long as they stay under 1500, their conscious was clear and they would sleep soundly (after our sugar high crashed….hard). Never were we taught to view food as anything other than the calories it contained, as if that was the only way to measure its value.
Now, before I pendulum hard to the other side like is my natural inclination, I want to make something clear: Calories DO matter. I do not want to discount that the energy measurement has its rightful place, particularly in making sure you are eating ENOUGH. Because at the end of the day, your body needs energy. It needs calories to function. It needs calories to build muscle and jump and hug and read health blogs about body love and healing nourishment. If calories didn’t matter, we could take a vitamin shot with all our micronutrient needs and be done…But oh God why. Eating is life.
If you are moving at all, exerting brain power, or in stressful times, your body needs that energy to function, cope, and recover. So, YES CALORIES DO MATTER. And there is a time and a place to focus on them. In my practice it’s to make sure the women I see are eating enough, and not giving into deprivation and restrictive tendencies.
There are TONS of factors that influence the way you process and use calories, a large one being the quality and type of food you are consuming (I talk a little more about this HERE in myth 3). Others include sleep, hormones, how you eat (eating slower allows for better digestion and assimilation), and even your taste preferences. A European study gathered many participants together and fed them the EXACT same meal. They measured all participants’ energy expenditure and various modes of digestion and assimilation and found that those who enjoyed the meal had higher BMR postmeal (burned more calories), less digestive complaints, and more assimilated nutrients.
Case in point: food isn’t a numbers game. Eat high quality, whole foods that you enjoy, rest well, and treat your body with the respect it deserves. Do this and it will be able to digest and use calories more efficiently (i.e. for energy, not stored fat).
6. YOUR BODY SIZE TELLS YOU HOW HEALTHY YOU ARE.
I saved this one for last because it is my favorite bubble to pop. Just picture me
running skipping to all the people proclaiming yelling obnoxiously “BODY FAT DOESN’T SAY SH#@ ABOUT YOU OR YOUR HEALTH. BE FREE”. And then scurrying away.
We live in a very fat phobic society, meaning we associate body fat as ‘bad’ and the absence of it ‘good’. We have been taught to view our weight as a PRIMARY health issue.
THIS IS NOT TRUE OR FOUNDED IN SCIENCE.
We are told by USDA guidelines, the arbitrary BMI measurement, and diet culture that our body fat is what is wrong with us. And you will fix all your health problems ( and life problems) if you just diet and lose the weight. Here’s the problem with that, your body fat percentage and the fluctuations it has is never a disease or health problem in of itself. Meaning your metabolism doesn’t become broken in an isolated event that will be fixed by losing weight. It means there is a REAL primary cause of dysbiosis (imbalance) in the body that is manifesting itself in a broken metabolism.
A perfect example of this is Hypothyroidism: a condition where your thyroid gland becomes under active due to stress, autoimmunity, undereating/overexercising, or environmental toxins. An estimated 20 million Americans are affected, 60% of which are unaware. One of the most common symptoms is weight gain. Though it is just a symptom designed to tell you something is off inside, most women just see their clothes get tighter and in a flurry of shame restrict their calories or punish themselves with exercise (all of which will make the condition worse….as these things tend to do).
If you are overweight and have ridden the diet train for years only finding that it feels impossible to find weight stability, I urge you to take the focus off losing weight and onto real healing. Chronic Dieters have often damaged their metabolism and hormones for years, and only achieve weight stability when they fix those root cause issues, not try the next fad diet media is selling you. Find a functional medicine practitioner, eat nourishing foods from the earth, and manage your stress; then observe without expectation as your body settles into its healthy, balanced place.
It is incredibly important to highlight Health at Every Size. This weight inclusive wellness recognizes the validity of different body types, and that it is not accurate or appropriate to have a designated body size to represent health, as healthy will look different on everyone and can even vary in one person throughout their life seasons.
This is what is represented in the scientific literature and in peoples lives. I was the unhealthiest I have ever been at my smallest weight, and had glowing lab results at the heaviest I ever was.
Your weight is not a direct correlation to your health. I know its hard to believe, partly because it is so contrary to what society tells us and partly because you so BADLY want to believe it. Well, go ahead my friend. Because this is real. If you want to pursue health, REAL health, do not pursue a number on a scale or a dress size. Pursue nourishment. Pursue healing. And allow your body to follow your lead.
Any of these ring true for you? Any questions? Shoot me an email or Comment Below! Your question might be featured in our monthly Ask Jess series!