Smutty Fitness: Stress and lifestyle

July 21, 2015 14:09:31 Posted at July 21, 2015 14:09:31
Hayley Posted by Hayley
AKM-GSI/ Splash News

Hi Hayley,
A couple of years ago, I lost about 45 pounds by overhauling my lifestyle - I cut back on processed foods, increased my intake of good foods and started exercising on a regular basis - I started off with cardio, then eventually incorporated strength training into my routine. It took about two years in total, but I reached my goal weight. Since then, I've been in maintenance mode - I still work out 3-4 times a week, and still eat fairly well. Throughout the journey, I have always had a fairly balanced outlook - I've never completely cut out alcohol or the odd treat, and this has worked for me. I know I'll never have cut abs and will always carry a bit of a paunch, but I'm okay with that, as it allows me to have wine when out with my friends. I had no problems maintaining my weight with this strategy. 

Recently, the pounds have been creeping up. I haven't changed anything food wise, but I did switch jobs to an office closer to my house, and now bike to work. I do this in addition to my regular 3-4 day routine of strength and cardio. Is it possible that I'm gaining weight by working out MORE? It doesn't seem to be muscle weight, as my scale has readings for fat/water/bone mass, etc. (which I'm sure is not nearly an exact science), and it's the fat number that is creeping up. I'm also a bit stressed out as I'm not 100% happy with my job, so perhaps stress is playing a role?
Not quite sure what's happening here, but it's a bit disconcerting, to say the least! Any tips are welcome!


As unfortunate as this is, weight loss is not as simple as calories in versus calories out as there are so many other factors that can affect one’s weight gain. Stress is a major factor in what the scale is reading, and it can move the scale in both directions. Some people, while stressed, find that they lose weight and some people find that they gain weight, neither of which are healthy. Weight loss due to stress, I find, comes from not eating enough as well as a reduction in exercise. This results in a loss of both body fat and muscle mass, as well as a decrease in overall health and wellness. I know when I am in stressful situations I tend to lose weight and I am at my thinnest when I am going through tough times.
Weight gain due to stress is usually a factor of emotional eating. Emotional eating is commonly something that we do to distract ourselves from other things that are occurring in our lives, such as a job that we may not be enjoying, which can then start to pack the pounds on without us even knowing.  And if the stress is also preventing us from being active, then you are even more at risk of gaining weight. 

Alcohol is another way of causing pounds to creep on, even if just adding a glass or two extra a week, as is added daily snacks, weekly treats, dehydration and fatigue. So give your lifestyle and nutrition an honest (do not anything slide) once over and see where these added pounds may be coming from. Look at your water intake, your alcohol consumption, your daily snacking, weekly treats and your sleep habits.

Yes, it is possible that the added weight gain can be coming from an increase in activity, due both to added muscle as well as an increase in daily calories needed to fuel your body, but in my experience people would rather blame weight gain on this than honestly looking at their lifestyle.

Keep up the cycling to work and from work, as that is a great way to decompress after a long and stressful day, but look closely at the rest of your lifestyle. Up your water intake, up your fibre intake and make sure these added daily rides are not affecting the intensity of your workouts. You still need to make sure you push yourself hard!

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