Stress & Depression
The world puts unnecessary pressure on looks – especially for fitness enthusiasts across the globe. Whether you are an athlete, dancer, fitness competitor, fitness professional, aerobics instructor, crossfit gamer, gym member or life-long dieter, you may not see yourself as others see you. You may look in the mirror and see Fat, Thick and Out of Shape, while others see you as Fit, Trim and Healthy. In today’s blog I get super personal and tackle a sensitive topic of an unhealthy body image and Body Dysmorphia.
When I was in the doctor office earlier this week, I was talking to my girlfriend (Dr. Jennifer Stepanek) about my struggle with not being able to workout right after my vacation. Like I said in my last blog, there’s nothing like being off your diet and workout program, and then getting hurt and you can’t exercise. I confessed that I felt so fat. I honestly think I told her that because she was about to hold onto my body and manipulate my back, and the last time I saw her it was close to my competition and I was super lean. I honestly know that the last time I saw her I was too lean. Meaning, it wasn’t healthy lean – it was pre-competition lean, but it didn’t change the way I felt.
Her compassionate and concerning response was “you know that’s not right? That’s really a sign of body dysmorphia”. I was taken back a little. She followed with explaining how she dealt with that as a dancer, and watched many girls put excessive pressure on themselves for how they looked and what they weighed. She continued to encourage me and I continued to confess that this was an area I’m working on as I try to find balance in the crazy fitness world.
As a fitness professional, I probably have unreasonable expectations I put on myself to look, and live, the part. Steve warned me about this as I prepared to compete this year. He encouraged me to allow myself to gain some weight back and not freak out. I also now understand why we whines about feeling fat even after one big meal. There is something that happens to people who compete, or get really lean (like for modeling jobs, performances, competitions, TV, etc), that raises the bar too high – and it messes with your head.
While someone else’s “best” is closer to a normal healthier weight, my perceived “best” is not a healthy weight. That is why, when I weighed in on the inBody machine (our comprehensive body composition machine) close to competition, it said I needed to gain 11.7lbs of fat. I look at that and think that’s ridiculous, that’s a LOT of fat! But, that is what is considered a normal healthy weight for my age, my height and my muscle mass.
OK, so back to the day of that doctor’s visit. Later that day, Steve took this picture of me holding an Atkins frozen dinner for a campaign I’m working on. He snapped a few pics and I ate my meal and didn’t post the pic until later, after Steve left. I hadn’t even looked at the photos yet, but when I did, I was surprised. I looked thin. Not super-fit thin, or really lean or anything (remember, I have been off my diet for a bit), but I didn’t look as fat as I felt (and I REALLY had been feeling super fat). Please bear with me here. You maybe thinking this is ridiculous, or that I’m crazy, and I’m writing this to say “yes, it IS ridiculous and yes, I AM crazy”. lol That’s why I’m sharing this with you. Maybe someone else will benefit from my own struggle and discovery.
As I looked at that picture and reflected on what my friend said, I thought about the seriousness of not having a true concept of what I really look like. I waited until Steve came home and said “can I ask you a question?” Of course he said “yes” and I proceeded with opening my phone to that picture and asking “do I look like this?” He laughed (not understanding) and I explained “do I look heavier in person than I do in these pictures, because I feel like the pictures makes me look thinner than I actually am”. He responded with “no, you look much fatter in person” and then laughed (totally teasing me). He of course said that was what I looked like. That I was thin. That just baffled me!
I explained that I thought maybe I was dealing with body image issues. He said “duh, yes, you most definitely are dealing with dysmorphic issues. Most competitors do”. Hmmmm I thought. Dang it. I don’t want to be like ‘most people’. Ha! So I decided to do some research to learn more about this disorder.
I found an online test and took the test to see where I stood. I actually thought the results would show traces of BDD (Body Dysmorphia Disorder) – and was expecting the results to basically say “yes, you have some of the symptoms, but it’s just a mild case”(and I was even conservative with my answers!! haha – but instead, the results screamed ‘you gotta get this under control girlfriend!”. lol
CLICK HERE to view the questions or take the test (the answers will be emailed to you).
Spoiler Alert – you can skip the test and just use me as the guinea pig! lol Here is the “answer key”
* 1 to 3 test items checked: There is a low probability that you have BDD.
* 4 to 7 test items checked: There is a medium probability that you have BDD.
* More than 7 test items checked: There is a high probability that you have BDD. I checked 14 freakin’ lines! FOURTEEN! OMG! Ok, so I’m going to be so super honest here and share my thoughts on each symptom. Lord, I hope this helps someone because this is sorta embarrassing.
Getting Personal: My BDD Test Revealed
Test questions are in light grey, and my answer and thoughts follow.
- I excessively worry about my physical appearance. YES. I didn’t think I did until I reeeeally thought about this hard. I ended up checking yes because, realistically, I do know I stress about how I look more than I should.
- I often check my appearance in mirrors or other reflecting objects (i.e., windows, car bumpers, spoons, etc). YES. I don’t typically have long gazes in the mirror or window as I walk by, and rarely do it if anyone is watching, but if no one is around – yes, I totally do. I just have the prudence (or pride) to hide it well because I see others do it in public at the gym and realize it looks self-centered and is unattractive.
- I frequently avoid mirrors and other reflecting objects. I checked NO. Ironically, I used to always be in the back of an aerobic class because I didn’t like to see myself in the mirror. I used to tease that I hated seeing my long limbs flying around and how awkward I looked. But other than that, I want to look in the mirror so I have a chance to improve a flaw (like messy hair, shiny nose, etc).
- I excessively perform basic grooming activities (i.e., washing skin, combing hair, brushing teeth) related to my perceived flaw. I said NO to this one. I don’t have any excessive grooming rituals. I mean, I do have a skin regimen I have to do or I’ll be one big walking zit, but I don’t think I desire to wash my face 15 times or brush my hair 100 strokes. I do have to wash my face really good to get all the pounds of make-up off it since I use so much make-up to cover my yucky skin from my teenage acne years. Who am I kidding?! I never stopped having acne! ha!
- I often use make-up or clothing (i.e., hats, scarves, long sleeve shirts, long pants, etc.) to camouflage my perceived flaw. A reluctant YES. I never leave the house without make-up. I’m a little better now. I sometimes do run without it, but most of the time I have SOMETHING on my face (foundation to smooth out my freckly uneven complexion). I also definitely change the way I dress depending on how fat or fit I feel. I think this is normal to some degree, but I definitely need to consider this as an issue I need to work on.
- I frequently attempt to hide my perceived flaw by using my hands, by sitting in certain positions, or by staying in places where I believe the flaw will be less noticeable by others (i.e., a dark corner in a theatre or restaurant). Another reluctant YES. No, I don’t hide in a dark corner when going out, but I do tend to try and hold myself in certain positions (especially on the beach or in tight fitting clothes) so fat rolls don’t show, etc. Again, probably somewhat normal, but borderline obsessive. I have been known to wear my hair a certain way to hide a blemish and I can’t just stand normal in a photo without wondering if I’m in a “fat position”. LIke anyone cares what I look like in the dang picture! lol
- I regularly scrutinize others’ appearance for comparison. NO. I might admire someone else, but I don’t scrutinize others. I’m too worried about my own flaws. lol
- I sometimes discuss my perceived flaw with others, or ask others to verify my perceived flaw. Well, I can’t say that I would have answered YES to this before, but after my talk with the doctor and Steve today, I couldn’t answer no. ha!
- I often seek reassurance from others about the appearance of my perceived flaw. I had to check YES on this one too. Although I don’t feel I seek reassurance from others, I do seek it from Steve. I may complain about being fat, but it’s not to hear “you aren’t fat” – it’s more of an admission or confession. As if I feel the other person is already thinking it, so I might as well say it. However, with Steve, I do seek his reassurance because he’s really the only one I care about.
- I often touch, pick, and/or measure my perceived flaw. OK, this is getting personal here but I am SUCH a picker!! I admit it! All the dermatologists and aestheticians in the world will hate this but I touch and pick at my skin a lot. I can’t STAND having a blemish. I want it OUT and fixed – and I’m no different with any flaw. I don’t have a lot of patience with flaws. If I notice a new flaw, I want to fix it right away, even if I have to cut it out, cut it off, dye it, exercise it off, glue it, paint it, cover it, medicate it – whatever the fix is, I almost can’t even work or do anything until I first deal with it. So YES was the answer to this one. I always thought that was my perfectionist side, but I now realize it’s more than that and I need to work on this more. I also weigh myself daily to “measure” how I am really doing with my weight/body.
- I diet and/or eat only specific foods related to my perceived flaw. YES. One of my percieved flaws is body fat. So, yes, I do diet and eat specific foods that would help that area. This would be OK if this was the only line I checked YES on, but considering I have a whole host of issues, this is just another area that could get out of control if I don’t learn to maintain balance.
- I excessively exercise and/or lift weights in an effort to alter my perceived flaw. YES. Duh! lol Oh boy. I don’t even need to explain my thoughts on this one. Again, whether this is healthy or not comes down to balance in all areas.
- I avoid certain places and/or activities (i.e., parties, dating, swimming, restaurants, theatres, etc.) because I don’t want others to see my perceived flaw. I answered NO on this one. However, I will try my darnedest to stay home if I feel ugly, and I most definitely won’t put on a bathing suit if I feel fat – but I typically don’t let it keep me from going places and having fun.
- I generally avoid having my picture taken. NO. I’m learning to be OK with ugly selfies. I have to take pics for brands. I used to take a million pictures to get just one OK one, but this is actually an area I’ve improved on. I’m more OK with less than perfect photos. #workinprogress
- I have undergone cosmetic procedures to correct my perceived flaw (i.e., plastic surgery, hair replacement, skin bleaching, etc.). Let’s just say I used to work for a plastic surgeon’s office when I was in my twenties and I had every skin peel there was to improve my skin, I’ve had various un-invasive treatments to improve skin texture and color, and used bleaching creams to improve acne scars – and STILL use 3 different medicated treatments from Vein Therapies (Dr. Beckett’s office) to help my skin. It definitely did give me more confidence and improved my skin greatly. I also have permanent make-up because I couldn’t stand the way I looked without eyeliner. My face just disappeared. I have to admit, that was WAY worth it and definitely helped me feel better about myself since I loved the water and sport, etc. Obsessive? I don’t think so, but the answer still is YES.
- I am dissatisfied with the outcome of these cosmetic procedures. Well, I had realistic expectations of each procedure so I can’t say I was dissatisfied. Do I wish my skin was even smoother and clearer? Yes, but I answered NO on this one because my skin has definitely improved.
- I am planning or hoping to have cosmetic procedures to alter my perceived flaw in the future. I would LOVE to have laser on my face and go on acutane. I always thought I’d grow out of acne, but it never happened. I have pores so large you can swim in them and acne scars that have destroyed the texture of my skin – and now I have wrinkles too! ha! It’s always been a dream of mine to get laser to improve my skin. It’s a pretty big procedure (lot of down time and painful from what I understand) but I’ve seen how baby smooth it is after it’s done. Someday! I answered YES, because if I had the time and money, I’d do it in a heartbeat – complete with a blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery to fix my old wrinkly eyes).
- I am often anxious or depressed thinking about my perceived flaw. YES. Sadly, I worry about my weight way too much. I get really depressed when I gain even 5lbs. It’s not right, I don’t condone that, but I’m just being honest. I know it’s not healthy and it’s unnecessary.
- I am often late for activities due to performing behaviors related to my perceived flaw. I am much quicker to get ready now, but I have a hard time “stopping” the perfecting process. I’m always running late because I change my clothes 5 more times in search for something that looks better. Or I curl a few more chunks of hair, as if that will make all the difference. I fix, fix, fix and re-fix, when I should just say goodbye to the mirror and be OK with everything the way it is – even if it’s less than desirable to me. Lately, I’ve been working on this. Even though I have a bad attitude about it, I will say “forget it. that’s just as good as it gets” and will flip the light off and walk away. It’s a step. The next step is smiling and being OK with it. So, YES.
- I often believe others notice my perceived flaw and/or are thinking negative thoughts about my perceived flaw. This is a big one for me. YES. I totally think people look at me and think “boy, she’s gotten fat”. Sadly, people have said stupid stuff like “you don’t look like your pictures now do you?” I never forget my mailman pointed to a poster of me and said “you don’t have those abs now do you?” It crushed me. I was like “No, it’s freakin Christmas and I’m not training for anything. I’m trying to enjoy my life, but thanks for reminding me of how fit I was a few months ago. So, yes, I do fear people whisper about me if they feel like I’m not as thin or muscular as I can be. I wonder if my enemies enjoy seeing me a little fuller or if people judge me. I don’t know why I even care, but maybe it’s just being a fitness leader. I want to practice what I preach and I desire to be a good example. I don’t like letting people down. Another unnecessary pressure I put on myself. I know. Another big one to work on.
- I am significantly distressed about my perceived flaw. YES. I rarely am free from this, unless I’m really lean and have been dieting hard for something. I stress out way too much about this. I can even realize that there are obese people who would love to be my weight, even at my heaviest. However, it still doesn’t change the way I feel in my own skin.
- I often believe others are discussing or commenting on my perceived flaw. This goes with the earlier question about feeling like others think negatively about your perceived flaw. YES, sadly, I think there are catty women who love to see you at your worst. I think people enjoy putting others down in order to be lifted up. Shute, there are some people who look down on us BECAUSE we workout and because I have muscle (because they perceive that to be unattractive, un-womanly, self-centered or showy). I always think people see my flaws more than my strengths, but I don’t feel that way about the people I truly love and who truly love me.
- My concerns about my perceived flaw are interfering with my relationships and/or with my academic or professional functioning. NO. I think they probably take up too much time, thought and emotion, but no, I don’t let them interfere with my life for the most part.
So there you have it – an up close and personal peak at my warped brain! Now on to making a change!
Disorder or Dis-Order?
Medical Definition: a derangement or abnormality of function; a morbid physical or mental state.
While I’m sure many psychiatrists would disagree with this statement, I still will say it. I will not label myself as having BDD just because I scored poorly on this test. (Granted, if you have severe depression or suicidal thoughts related to these symptoms, I do recommend seeing a professional please!) But, in my case, I will address each concern and work on it.
I will not use it as a crutch or an excuse to continue BDD behavior. This test simply made me aware of areas I need to work on. Whether you or I are clinical or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I can improve and so can you! In many ways, I have improved (like with my skin). I might be worse temporarily with my body after experiencing competition weight, but I’m not going to settle for this emotional state – and, if you struggle with this too, you should not either.
I look at it this way. I can either say this is a disorder, or I can realize these symptoms are a result of dis-order meaning things (life) out of order (not in premium working condition). As I attempt to put my life in the right order – putting God first, Steve/family next, others next, etc. my focus will slowly shift off myself and onto others and more important things than the way I look.
The OCD Center of Los Angles says “From a mindfulness perspective, much of our psychological distress is the result of trying to control and eliminate the discomfort of unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. In other words, our discomfort is not the problem – our attempt to control and eliminate our discomfort is the problem. For an individual with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to develop the ability to more willingly experience their uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges, without responding with compulsions, avoidance behaviors, reassurance seeking, and/or mental rituals.”
So, if I want to improve in this area, I need to purposefully allow myself to experience the “perceived flaw” without always frantically responding to it. This means, I should start running without makeup more so I get used to being out in public with no make-up. No one in my neighborhood cares or notices anyway! I used to think I just did this to make myself feel better (and I do believe that is the main reason), but maybe I am fueling the fire and creating a habit that is hard for me to break. So, as a result of this test, I plan on “exercising” this area of my life.
Another thing I have already started “practicing’ is wearing loose clothing. Why not be more comfortable right? I always think of loose clothing as sloppy and making me look fat, but it is more comfortable, and it takes my eyes and mind (as well as others’) off my body. This is especially important to me when I’m close to a competition. Many people get skimpier and skimpier the leaner they are (to show off their progress or just because they are more comfortable exposing skin). I was convicted earlier this year, I should do the opposite. It’s one thing to wear fitting clothes to the gym, but when I’m out and about (at church, shopping, etc), I should really dress more conservatively and cover up more. It’s less pressure on me, and is better for me to take the focus off my body and more on other important things.
Practice Makes Better
You might have heard the saying, “the first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem”? Well, I do believe the first step is admitting you have things to work on. Now it’s up to me to WORK on them. I will not suddenly be OK with my body or skin, but I absolutely can practice changing my mindset. I can take less time getting ready. I can refuse to change clothes 10 times on fat days, and just shoot for 1 or 2 times. I can wear less make-up when it doesn’t matter and I can walk the beach in a bikini on my fat days and remind myself that no one cares if I am 5lbs heavier than I want to be. I can choose to smile and not complain about how I feel. That is a choice, not a reaction. I have full control. i just have to practice more control.
The fact of the matter is that I know I am being unrealistic, so I can let a lot of this go – BUT, it will be a daily dying to self (not letting my body rule me, Romans 8:13) and practicing a healthier ORDER to my life. How does God see me? Righteous and redeemed! (1 Corinthians 1:30)
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Learning a Healthy Balance:
#1 Do not worry – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Matthew 6:25 How often do we worry about things that have nothing to do with eternity or to do with anything that TRULY matters. It’s a waste of time and energy. We must practice NOT worrying.
#2 Focus on what is most important – I need to realize being fit has some value, but it falls below godliness. I should spend way more time on working on my heart, than my physique.
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
#3 Actively work to re-prioritize your life. The world can knock our priorities out of order. Work may require us to work later, and miss time with family. Stress may force our eyes of other important things. We don’t set priorities and call it a day. We set them, and then spend the rest of our lives re-prioritizing them – putting the important things back in the right order and pushing other stuff out of the way. A life without purposefully reordering our life, is a life completely out of order. This is how the world conforms us if we let it. It is only by being proactive with our thoughts, relationships and priorities will we be transformed by the renewal of our mind like this scripture says.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
We can’t let our thoughts go wild. We have control over our mind or God would never tell you to “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2) because He’d never tell us to do something we couldn’t do. God is telling us that we can change our mind, and set it to more important things than worrying about how we look or feel. Again, practice makes better.
I hope this super long blog helped, or encouraged you. If nothing else, if you struggle with these things, you now know you aren’t alone. We all do to some degree – just some of us need to work on them more than others!
When I was in high school, my homeroom teacher came up to me and said “you’re walking the fence Bonnie.” I knew exactly what he meant and I’ll never forget it (or him, Coach Youngblood). While he was talking about how I acted at school verses how I acted at church, I believe this same condition (walking the fence) happens to all of us in many different areas of our life – including fitness. People have so much unnecessary stress in their life because they “walk the fence” with their diet, with exercise, with relationships, with finances and absolutely with their spiritual life. This “condition”, I’ll call it, causes so much discontentment, frustration, restlessness, resentment, anger, bitterness, conviction and conflict. Why? Because you want peace, but your body and mind are in conflict. You know what you WANT, but you aren’t doing what you NEED to do to get it. You are “walking the fence”.
For example, you want to get fit, but you aren’t fully committed to the diet. In this case, every time you eat poorly, every time you weigh yourself, or every time you don’t like the way you look in clothes, you are filled with regret, guilt, conviction, stress and disappointment. In addition, every time you are with your fit little friend, you are uncomfortable. A matter of fact, you are actually downright grouchy and feel even worse because she’s a constant reminder of what you should be doing. As a result, you may even avoid your fit friends or avoid the gym. Listen, there is more to life than how we fit in our jeans. I admit, I like myself better at a certain weight, but what I like more is the peace I have with myself when I am taking care of my body and living right (or at least trying!!). I refuse to live a life buried in guilt and discouragement from letting my life get out of control. While I sure do enjoy feeling thinner and fitter, I also enjoy the peace of knowing I am doing what is healthy and good.
Maybe your issue isn’t with food or fitness. Maybe it’s with relationships or with God. No matter what you are wrestling with, if you are filled with conviction, anger, frustration and restlessness, it’s often because you keep doing what you WANT to do and resisting what you SHOULD do. Once you want peace more than whatever you are currently craving, change will happen and peace will come. Joyce Meyer said peace finally came in her home when she wanted peace more than she wanted to be right. How often do we trade peace for something temporary? There is simply NO PEACE when you are on the fence. You can’t “rest” on the fence. On the fence, there is indecisiveness, conviction, conflict and restlessness. Peace requires commitment – the commitment to do what you need to do, not just what you want to do. It’s the decision to get off the fence and get on the RIGHT side of life. Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it! Psalm 34:14 I LOVE this scripture!! If you crave peace, don’t wait for it to come to YOU, chase after it, seek it, pursue it, do everything you need to get it – and depart from the things that are getting in the way of peace. What are you not willing to “depart” from? Are you trading peace for food? Are you trading peace for what makes you feel good in the moment? You know which side of the fence you should be on so what are you waiting for? Seriously, what is more valuable than peace?
Worrying Can Cause:
- Lack of sleep or insomnia
- Panic attacks
- Fast heart rate
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle tension and muscle aches
Web MD explains that when you worry for a long time, you have excessive fuel in the blood that isn’t used properly (like pinned up energy to use for exercise or activity), which can cause a host of other major problems like:
13. Suppression of the immune system
14. Digestive disorders
15. Short-term memory loss
16. Premature coronary artery disease
17. Heart attack
Stress is not what causes health problems. It’s how you handle stress in your life. If you don’t handle it well (or at all), and you just worry about it – eventually it WILL come out and attack your body. You cannot pin all that anxiety up without exploding eventually.
6 Ways to Handle Stress Better
If you catch yourself worrying, here are a few things you can do to control it so it doesn’t affect your health:
- Exercise - People who worry, tend to be very frustrated because they can’t do anything about their current problem. Exercise, hands down, is the best way to relieve stress and get out your frustrations. It also will help you fall a sleep better so you don’t stay up thinking about your problems.
- Eat healthy - You need to fuel your body with good food if you want to feel good. Unfortunately, people who deal with a lot of stress tend to eat poorly, and eat more – as if to get some type of temporary satisfaction when they are so unsatisfied with other areas of their life. Poor choices may help you feel better for a moment, but they will leave you lacking the energy you need to handle the rest of the day – and the weight you gain will leave you even more discouraged.
- Slow down - many people who are stressed out, try to keep busy to keep their mind off things. They tend to work longer hours, stay entertained, avoid quiet and self-medicate themselves with alcohol or drugs. What they need most is what they avoid most – silence. This is where yoga is very good. You get to stretch tense muscles, control your breathing, meditate and even pray. Remember, you can’t go 100 miles an hour without eventually crashing. You need to purposely slow your body down to prevent wrecking your health.
- Rest - This is something that often times will not come naturally. You will have to FORCE your body to rest. Even if that means taking a mild sleep aid (like Tylonel PM), it is imperative you get the rest you need to stay both physically and mentally healthy. If you miss rest, you are setting yourself up for a ton of other problems – and you’ll have even more to worry about, with no energy to do anything about it.
- Limit or avoid stimulates – If you are a big coffee drinker or smoker, you are probably making things worse. You need relaxation, not stimulation. If you don’t plan to give it up, then you need to give your body a way to blow off steam. Take a walk or jog, workout, play a game of tennis, go to the batting cages or driving range, or take some boxing lessons. If you are going to stimulate your body, let your body use that stimulation to be active.
- Get help – If you feel you can’t do any of these things on your own, or you have tried them and you are still dealing with excessive stress and anxiety, see a doctor. Seek professional counsel and talk with a friend. It is super important that you have people who care about you monitoring you, supporting you, and helping you through this difficult time. Whatever you do, don’t go it alone.
Are you a chronic worrier? Read 9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying
Most of us have done this before. We skip a few workouts, and before you know it, we are eating crappy, eating too much, feeling fat, and just eating more and more. Here are 3 chemical reasons why we EAT MORE when we skip our workouts – and if you think about it, these same reasons are also often times why we WORKOUT LESS.
1. WE ARE TIRED. Ironically, one of the reasons we skip workouts is because we are too tired. However, many times we still don’t give our body the rest it needs to recover. We continue to go, go, go. Since calories are energy, some experts say our body craves calories because it knows it will wake us up and energize us. However, what we probably need is just a really good night sleep so we wake up refreshed and energized the healthy way.
2. WE ARE STRESSED. Many times we skip a workout because we are stressed out and can’t focus. When we are stressed, we often don’t feel like being around people and we just want to hide – so extra social events like going to the gym get the ax. Also, the more people are stressed, the less they sleep. So #1 is already in play. Researchers say that when we are stressed our body releases more cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Some reports indicate that increased cortisol is linked to increased belly fat and increased cravings. Then there is just the “woe, is me” part. The more stressed we get, the more sorry we feel for ourselves, and the more we decide we deserve the ice cream because it’s been “such a rough day”. The best way to combat stress, is sleep and exercise. If you want to combat stress eating, you have to combat the stress.
3. WE ARE BORED. We are too tired to workout and to stressed to think – so we plop down on the couch to “relax”. Since we skipped our workout, we actually have MORE time to do nothing (and more time to eat!). Although we probably should go to bed, we don’t, because we don’t like missing out on anything. Instead, we stalk Instagram, check facebook, tweet a couple of folks, surf, or turn on the good ole boob tube. These things stimulate us enough to keep us awake enough to not miss anything, but not relaxed enough to get the rest our body needs.
Like Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands?” we don’t know how to stay still. We rarely sit that still – and as soon as we do, we want to be entertained. Normally, that includes food. Again, if you want to prevent boredom eating, tackle #1 so you aren’t too tired to spend time exercising, tackle #2 so you aren’t craving food and work on #3 and limit your “still time” or learn how to control your hands – and your tongue.
Break the Cycle
Sadly, if we don’t break the cycle, the more we eat, the more depressed we get – and that fuels more lack of sleep, more stress and more boredom because we normally retreat. We also feel hopeless because we feel too far away from our goal. Instead of looking at why we eat crappier when we workout less, let’s look at why we eat better when we workout more.
When we workout, we work HARD to burn calories. Since just how hard we worked is fresh in our head, we are less likely to sabotage that work. The key is, it has to be a regular thing. It’s not like we can work hard last week and that be enough to make us want to protect last week’s investment. Muscle soreness, being in the gym, being around other inspiration people and sweating your butt off TODAY is what you need to help give you the motivation you need to eat right TODAY.
Sometimes, that feeling is enough to last you a couple of days – but once you’ve missed a bunch of days, forget it. We lose that connection between work and calories. It not real enough to us anymore. That’s also why it’s much harder to diet without exercise. Exercise is like your job and food is like your money. You’ll never be frugal with free money, but if you work hard for it, you’ll be a lot more cautious how you spend it. This is also why the work must be a little tough. When you work REALLY hard for something, you bet you’ll be a lot less likely to blow that hard work on a something silly. One, because you realize all the hard work you just did and, two, because you don’t want to do any more of that than you have too.
Let the People Speak
Here’s what others had to say about why they think they eat more when they workout less.
Alexie Elizabeth Messer I think it is because when we are working out we realize the effort we have out in that day and don’t want to ruin/negate it by over eating. In short we are just more conscious of our bodies when working out.
Patti Ambrosia McLean We figure might as well… Sadly we want instant results. Not possible
Robert Phoenix At heart we are hunters, gatherers & scavengers. Its deeply routed in our genetics. This is at odds with modern day living. We are programmed to search & forage for food. When we exercise we burn fat & calories. If we dont exercise insulin levels rise in the body to convert the excess food we eat into fat & store it, we become “insulin tolerant” & used to the rising levels of insulin & the body desires more food to counterract the increased insulin levels. We are also more likely to desire unhealthy foods as the insulin tolerance increases. Also mentality plays a big part. By saying “no” to specific foods you want them more so this doesn’t work well. The word “Diet” is overused & has become an instrinsic part of our vocabulary which is detrimental because it suggests to the body that we are “depriving” ourselves of food which makes the hunter/gatherer/scavenger inside us become a defense mechanism & make us want more food. I could go on…
Tamara Grand For me, the two go together. I’m more mindful of my body and how it feels when I’m exercising daily and the link between food and fuel is stronger!
Alex Cartwright Pretty sure it’s chemical…we aren’t getting the endorphin rush we’d receive from a good workout so we try to get it from food.
Tommy Arenas i work hard labor” then feel 2 tired 2 wrkout” sumtimz i just eat & crash”
Laurie Duncan It’s a survival mechanism.
Charise Charly McOmber I’d love to know. There are times when I can be right on target, never a slip. But I’ve gone through a period of swearing I’m going to make it today eating clean and then break every rule. I don’t get it.
Chris Nicodemus I disagree sorry , the More I Train the More I Eat, Like a Furnace Fueling the Fire
Amanda Marciniak Mazey did that today, I could not stop eating and couldn’t be bothered with working out, now I feel sick and yet even tho I’m not hungry feel the urge to eat
So, if you’re like me, you’re ready to get the weight off from the holidays, or maybe you need to lose a few pounds you’ve collected over the years. Either way, you’ve probably set some goals and are ready to get started – at least your brain is.
My brain says, “I am sick of feeling fat. I’m tired of clothes not fitting like I want them to fit. I’m tired of feeling tired and crappy. I’m tired of looking bad and feeling bad. I really love feeling fit and looking my best” And, although all those thoughts fill my head, which SHOULD motivate me to make a change, my body says “I DON’T WANNA!“.
Didn’t my body get the memo? Why is my body not fired up to get this fitness party started?! Well, I dug deep to uncover some of the reasons why I think our body is so slow to join our brain and begin to tackle our goals.
1. FAT PROBLEM
When we’re heavy, we’re sluggish and sometime even depressed. Our body is slow to respond to our brain’s desire to be fit because our body isn’t convinced it has what it takes to do what’s required. We know it will take work, and our body isn’t thrilled about it. We don’t even like the way we look in our workout clothes, which is another downer. If we don’t like what we see in the mirror, our knee-jerk reaction is to pout and hide. The more we hide and pout, the more depressed we get because our brain knows what to do, but our body isn’t ready to do it. Then we have to deal with guilt on top of fat.
SOLUTION: Our first mistake is thinking working out is an option. We can’t wait to “feel” like working out. We just have to start doing it, whether we feel like it or not. As we get in a routine, our body will begin to change and pep up. Exercise naturally improves our thoughts and fights depression. After a few days of regular exercise, our body will begin to look and feel better. The more comfortable we get in our skin, the more confident and extroverted we become. Once we start getting these results, they will keep us going after that.
2. PRIDE PROBLEM:
When we’ve been in better shape before, it’s easy to think people will notice how much we’ve slipped, and that is embarrassing. We know when we grab a set of dumbbells that we’ll probably have to lift lighter and not be able to go as hard as we once did. That too gives our pride another big hit.
SOLUTION: I hate to break it to you, nobody cares. Seriously, no one cares how much we lift or how fast we run. Most people won’t even notice what we’re doing. We are the only one that’s let down, so we have to get over it. Our body bounces back fast. If we were once very fit, but now we aren’t, our body will respond quickly – as long as we just get our butt to the gym and stay consistent. But if we want to succeed, we need to leave our pride at home.
3. ENERGY PROBLEM:
When we eat poorly and gain weight, we get lazy. We lack the energy to “feel” like working out – and laziness breeds more laziness, so the more we give into those lazy feelings, the worse we get.
SOLUTION: The first step to breaking the lazy cycle is eating healthy, low-calorie small meals. Smaller meals take less energy to digest, so we will have more energy to do other things (like exercise). Healthy fuel (food) also gives improves our energy levels and will power us through our workouts. Eating often (every 3 hours) keeps our metabolism up so we are more energized throughout the day. Once we get our fuel down, we can have better workouts – and the combination of the two will provide a powerhouse of energy.
4. TIRED PROBLEM:
While energy often stems from poor food choices, being tired may not have less to do with food and more to do with activity. Many people struggle with being too tired to workout, especially after a long hard day at work. When we are tired, we tend to be less active. We eat more, and drink more. The more we eat and drink, the more tired and stressed we become. We gain weight, which wears our body out, and we become more stressed, which wears us out even more. The added stress causes us to lose sleep. When we lose sleep, our body gets run down and we get sick more.
SOLUTION: Workouts with intense bursts of intensity boost both our mood and energy. Consistent challenging exercise improves sleep so we are more rested and energized through out the day. Exercise also helps relieve stress and release pinned up anger and frustrations. As our energy increases, so does our productivity. We will perform better at work and we’ll discover that the discipline in the gym will overflow in other parts of our lives. All in all, the one hour in the gym will improve how we spend the other 23 hours a day and we’ll be able to handle work, stress, hard labor and many other obstacles with much more ease.
5. BUSY PROBLEM:
We’re all busy, so it’s super easy to come up with a long list of responsibilities that get in the way of our workout. But, we can busy ourself right into the grave if we’re not careful.
SOLUTION: If we have a busy problem, we likely have a priority problem. We are “letting” our current life get in the way of our future life. We know what we want, but we aren’t prioritizing our schedule so that we get there. If we get better with managing our time, we can be better at managing our weight and workouts. Time management is a requirement for anyone who wants to get fit. We can’t just expect to have time left at the end of the day. We have to limit time we waste on other stuff and make time to invest in our future. We just need to make every minute count.
No matter what your problem is, the solution is the same. Just Show Up Anyway.
My Mantra Pic for DAY 4 of 30 Days of Motivation:
We all experience stress from time to time. Although we may experience the same type of stress (financial stress, stressful relationship issues, work stress, etc) we all respond to stress very differently (see my facebook poll below).
While we can’t always control the actual stress itself, we sure as heck can control how we respond to it – and THAT can make ALL the difference in the world!!
What causes stress?
I found this description on NaturalNews.com: “Exercise essentially burns away the chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine that cause stress. At the same time, vigorous exercise releases endorphins into the system. Endorphins are morphine-like hormones that are responsible for the feeling of elation, or well being that distance runners get from running. Other chemicals like dopamine and serotonin are also released in the brain during exercise. Together, these give a feeling of safety and security that contributes to off-setting some of the “internal” causes of stress, such as uncertainty, pessimism and negative self-talk.” This chemical reaction from exercise is often what people refer to as the Runner’s High.
To be honest, when I am stressed, the LAST thing I want to do is exercise. I want to go home and hide. I want to sit on the couch and entertain my brain with mindless TV. I want to eat and drink the night away until I’m so tired I crash in bed, hopefully forgetting (and ignoring) all of my problems. If I’m in a really pathetic mood, I will draw a bath and be sure to sulk for a long period of time. I won’t put on make-up or leave the house to do much of anything. BUT after that response, I will even feel WORSE! Yet, if I suck it up and exercise, the stressful circumstance may not change, but my view of that stress, and the way I handle it, completely changes. Here’s why.
10 Reasons Why Exercise is the Best Stress-Reliever
- Exercising regularly can reduce stress, and increase productivity. Since most of us have more stress when we are the busiest, with a demanding schedule, it actually is beneficial to exercise during our busiest time – which is often times when we skip our workouts the most.
- Exercise is prescribed to help relieve nervous tension. Studies showed people had a decrease in electrical activity of tensed muscles after exercise. This also helps relieve painful muscle spasms in common areas like our neck, back and shoulders.
- Exercise relaxes you. One exercise session generates 90 to 120 minutes of relaxation response. Since most of us struggle to relax when we are stressed, exercise is a good replacement for Valume and other medications commonly used to fight anxiety and nervous tension.
- Exercise improves self-esteem. When you exercise, you are more confident to handle stress. Small stresses won’t bother you as much, and bigger stresses will seem more manageable because you feel more confident to attack them. Other stresses related to your appearance or relationships may even completely go away when you take away your own insecurities.
- Intense exercise has a greater effect on reducing stress. A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that a relatively high-intensity exercise is superior in reducing stress and anxiety, especially in women – and even more in older women. (no excuses my menopause ladies!)
- The rhythmic running, outside or on the treadmill, can clear the mind. (you gotta love hearing that runners!!) In a world that constantly keeps the mind occupied, this is super helpful for troubleshooting problems and exploring new ideas. The Mayo Clinic calls exercise “Meditation in Motion“.
- Exercise has been proven to lower symptoms of depression and anxiety. Study after study continues to prove exercise is one of the best anti-depressants available.
- Exercise improves sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, which is often disrupted when one is going through a lot of stress. If you sleep better at night, you are more able, and ready, to bring on what the day throws your way.
- Exercise (which stresses our muscles and cardiovascular system) helps the body a chance to practice dealing with stress. It forces the body’s physiological systems to communicate better. The more sedentary we are, the less efficient our body is when responding to stress.
- People who exercise eat better. Since many people actually have additional stress due to weight gain and self-esteem issues, exercise helps improve our eating patterns, as well as improve our quality of food which can help us feel better and have more energy.
The way we respond to stress is habit. We will automatically try to turn to what we have taught our body to do when we experience stress – drinking, sleeping, eating, etc. If you want to change your first response, you have to change your stress-response. At first, it will be purposeful. You will have to force yourself to go to the gym, or go for a run, every day – especially after a bad day at work or a stressful event. Eventually it will become second nature.
When I asked my facebook peeps what their response to stress was, here were some of their honest answers. Just think how awesome we’d all feel if we all started to turn to exercise!