Did you know that I have a super secret weapon that I keep in my back pocket, and it is, by far, time and time again, the reason that I fail or the reason I succeed at anything I do? Yep. I’ve had it my entire life. Sometimes I consider it my biggest weakness, and at others times, it’s my biggest strength. And guys, it’s something you have too. It’s called your mindset.
When we think we can or cannot do something, we are often right. Our mindset plays one of the biggest roles in our lives when it comes to just about anything and everything. It’s the way we perceive our situation or our goals. It’s the way we tackle those goals when we feel motivated or the way we let them slide when we’re stuck in the belief that we can’t do something. That’s why paying attention to our overall mental health is one of the most important things we can do. Not just when it comes to our weight loss or body transformation goals, but in everything we do. Our mindset is key, and when our mental health suffers, we suffer.
How Mental Health Impacts Weight Loss
You guys, mindset and mental health is a BIG topic. To narrow it down, let’s focus on how mental health can impact our weight loss goals in some pretty important ways that you might not even realize. So, next time you step on that scale, and you can’t figure out why the number seems stagnant, it might be time to take a look at some other things going on and get prepared to shift, grow, and protect your mindset.
Stress = Lower Metabolism
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s more than just this overwhelming feeling of something being too much. Meaning, it’s more than just the mental aspect. Stress can wreak some pretty serious havoc on our systems as a whole, and it can be one of the leading contributors to physical symptoms:
- Stomach aches
- High blood pressure
- Angina (chest pain)
- Decreased libido
- Wonky sleep patterns
Stress can also cause increased levels of cortisol in our bodies, and for those of you who might not know what that means, cortisol is a stress hormone. When we have higher levels of this hormone floating around, we might experience things such as sugar cravings that can lead to mindless snacking, excess stomach bloat, and more abdominal fat stores. High cortisol levels have even been linked to a slower metabolism, which means your body is going to end up storing more food as fat than it is using as fuel and energy to power through your day or workouts. All of this can lead to weight gain.
When we’re stressed, we may also develop other emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or constant feelings of worry or dread. So let’s dig into that a little deeper.
Anxiety + Depression Decrease Physical Activity
Anxiety and depression are two huge things that can have some serious consequences when it comes to our physical health. A recent depression-related study showed that of 1,396 people, those who were obese were five times more likely to overeat on a regular daily basis than those who were not obese during depressive episodes. The thought behind this is that cravings were associated with feelings of hopelessness, which would often trigger binge-eating episodes that often lead to an increase in weight gain. Changes in appetite are often linked to the brain’s reward pathway. When someone is feeling anxious or depressed, eating or consuming comfort foods is used as a tactic to boost someone’s emotional mood and help alleviate the feelings of anxiety and depression.
Depressive episodes are also linked to decreased physical activity. Often, people will experience difficulty in finding the motivation to get up and do the things that once brought them joy and, instead, are found to be more sedentary, which can also lead to weight gain. Pair decreased physical activity and poor eating habits and you’ve got a combination that really shows how powerful your mental health is when it comes to your physical health.
All of These Factors = Decrease in Beauty Sleep
If you think about it, all of these things are tied together. It really gives you a great big picture of how transformation is so much more than just your physical health. Poor sleep is often associated with anxiety and depression. When we’re constantly worrying about what the future holds, or our situation, or goals we feel we can’t achieve, we often experience restless nights, decreased REM sleep, and an overall poorer quality of sleep than what our body needs.
When you’re not consistently getting a restful night’s sleep, and I’m talking about getting 7-8 hours of shut eye every night, your metabolism will suffer. When we don’t get enough sleep, our body produces more of the hormone Ghrelin, which is responsible for telling us we’re hungry and it’s time to eat. When we have more Ghrelin in our body, we’re naturally going to be feeling hungrier more often or wanting to snack. In addition, when we’re sleep deprived, our body produces less of the hormone Leptin, which is the hormone responsible for telling us when we’re full. When those hormone levels are out of whack, it’s easier to adopt unhealthy eating habits, and weight gain can be a common issue.
How Fitness Can Improve Mental Health
When our mental health is suffering, it can be hard to find joy in the habits we used to love. Getting up and going for walks no longer sounds appealing, and often, neither does going to the gym or playing with the kids in the backyard. So many things suffer when our mental health suffers. Easy ways to get up and get moving again include little things that we can start doing every day. Here are some ways to get moving even when your mind and spirit are feeling like being still:
- Park farther away when we go to the store
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Commit to taking our pets (or family) for a daily walk
Small, simple habits are a great way to start feeling motivated. Even better, when we’re able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and soak up that Vitamin D, it can actually help ease anxiety and improve exercise performance.
One of the absolute, best things you can do if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, thoughts of hopelessness, or thoughts of self-harm is to reach out and speak to someone. We often don’t realize how important our mental health truly is until it’s sometimes just too late. I promise you, no matter the situation, no matter how hopeless you may feel, and no matter how devastating the past year has been for so many, you are worth it. You are worth your health, both mental and physical, and you are worth your happiness. Please don’t ever forget that.
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