I know I’m not the only one who gained weight over the past year. This year was a really stressful one, and it’s completely natural for your body’s weight to fluctuate during stressful times. Whether you lose or gain weight, cortisol (the stress hormone) does affect your body’s health in significant ways. Something I’ve been learning quite a bit on recently, and something I’ve felt inclined to share with all of you.
I’ve referenced this a few times in previous posts, but here’s the story: This past year I’ve gained a significant amount of my weight back. At first, I felt shame about it—especially after sharing with the world how great I was feeling in this 2019 essay. I felt shame because I gained weight even though I was still doing all of the “right” things for body—eating nutritious food, working out, limiting my sugar intake, and more. And yet, I was gaining weight? It made no sense to me, and my spirits were significantly low because of it.
When I finally started talking to a nutritionist (thinking that maybe there was a problem with my eating patterns I wasn’t noticing), she actually taught me quite a bit about how much stress can play a role in your body’s health and weight.
In one of our sessions, she taught me all about the parasympathetic nervous system and how stress doesn’t allow my body to go into a “rest and digest” mode. Instead, I live in the “fight or flight” mode, causing my body to constantly feel like it has to survive. Cortisol—that stress hormone I mentioned earlier—is triggered, which can mess with your metabolism. You can read more about this here.
After learning all of this, here are a few of the ways I’m trying to remove stressors in my life.
I’m learning to trust my body.
Am I perfect at this? Nope, not at all. That’s why I said I’m learning. I have days where I feel excellent and days I sob about how bloated I feel. I’m allowing myself to go through the process to love my body once again.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how practicing positive affirmations can actually change the way you think about yourself. Thanks to neuroplasticity, creating a regular habit of something can actually change the way you think. Here’s more on the science behind it.
The idea of neuroplasticity and positive affirmations make me think of that verse in Philippians:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
Whether you believe in God or not, I think we can all make this a practice in our lives. Set your mind on the good things of this world and the good things from your body, and it will change the way you think.
I’m wearing clothes that actually fit.
Guess what, I bet a majority of the world can’t fit in their pre-pandemic jeans right now. It’s okay. Throw them in the back of your closet or recycle them.
I was pissed at first that I couldn’t fit in my jeans…but then decided to take it as a sign to do some shopping. I treated myself to some new clothes that fit the body that I have right now so that I can feel good in the skin I’m in. Because how can I try to trust my body if I feel constantly betrayed by it every time I button up my pants?
Join me. Buy some new jeans.
I’m changing up my workout routine.
Sometimes the scale is helpful, while other times it’s not. I’ve always found the numbers to be helpful, but lately I feel like they’re mocking me. What does the number actually mean? Is it water weight? Is it muscle? Is it actually body fat?
Instead of constantly wondering…I decided to just learn the numbers myself. I decided to buy this new scale that can measure not only my body weight, but also my body fat, muscle mass, water weight, and bone density percentages. After getting on the scale, I realized that my muscle mass was surprisingly lower than I thought it was. Especially for someone who works out every day…
In that moment, I realized that I was reaching a plateau with my workout routine, and I needed to do something new and challenging. So I’ve decided to follow a strength training routine where I’ve increased my normal weights, as well as a biking routine (yay, warm weather!) I lift weights three times a week, and bike two times a week. Weekends are for yoga and resting only. As of right now, I’m stepping back from high-intensity interval training or cardio, because those are stressful workouts that aren’t helping my body naturally go into that “rest and digest” stage.
I’m adopting a sleep hygiene routine
Speaking of the “rest and digest” stage of the day, this was another recommendation from my dietitian that I absolutely loved. She recommended I create some kind of routine at night that will help me get the best sleep possible, so my body can naturally destress, rest, and digest
Right now, I try to step away from all screens one hour before bed. The blue light from screens messes with your melatonin levels, which makes it harder to fall asleep later. I’ve already noticed a huge difference by making this change.
Instead of sitting on my computer or watching a show, I read my book. Then I take some extra time to actually wash my face, brush my teeth, and get this, floss. My teeth deserve a little self-care, too!
And, of course, I’ll journal a bit. That’s if I haven’t already fallen asleep, which I do pretty quickly after following this sleep routine.
I have a lot more to say on this topic, but I’ll leave it here for now. I hope this post made you feel like you aren’t alone right now if your body changed during the pandemic, and even after all those changes, you are still allowed to love it, cherish it, and take care of it in a kind way. Your body got you through a global pandemic—don’t forget that.