What if your “healthy/clean eating diet” is holding you back from reaching your fitness goals?

I am so happy with the current trend in the fitness industry encouraging a more whole foods/less chemical approach to how we fuel and nourish our bodies. This approach is teaching us that wholesome foods are not punishment, but indeed the fuel our bodies need to function optimally. However, despite this trend, one huge problem is still being overlooked, stress and its associated unhappiness with our weight and the inability to achieve our fitness goals. Most people by now have heard that stress is a contributing cause of weight gain, or at least an inhibitor to weight loss. Although some stress can motivate us to focus, “bad” stress can be overwhelming and unmanageable. Besides the direct toll it can take on our emotional wellbeing, physically it can cause sleep difficulties, headaches, muscle tension and other effects not noticeable like hormonal imbalance, elevated cortisol levels and severe fluctuations in insulin levels. Not only can these fluctuations wreak havoc on memory and blood pressure, to name a couple, but are a direct cause to weight gain and fat stores in the mid section.

So, what do we do when we want to lose weight? We focus on what we “should” eat, what we “shouldn’t”, how much to eat, how often to eat and instead of focusing on a plan specific to our own body type, lifestyle and goals, we choose a strict eating plan that, “worked for someone I know.” So what happens when we are not accomplishing our lifestyle and weight loss goals? Guess what?? More stress!

Research shows that even low levels of stress can physiologically initiate the body’s stress response of holding onto fat stores, slowing down digestion and restrict nutrient absorption. This is important to be aware of because even if you consume healthy nutrient rich foods, the body’s response to “bad” stress will hinder your results and the choice to eat healthy to begin with.

Recent statistics show that 95% of those who go on restrictive “diets” fail. Why?? Because restrictive “diets” cannot be sustained and for those who experience weight loss, only gain the weight back once they are no longer following their plan, thus creating an unhealthy pattern that the body’s metabolism cannot keep up with.

So what is one to do when the body’s stress response interferes with us meeting our fitness and nutritional goals? By following these few simple steps!

1.) The first thing is to talk to someone who is invested in helping you meet your lifestyle and fitness goals. Together you will be able to work out a plan that is best for your body. By simply starting with journaling the foods you eat and tracking those that leave you feeling nourished and energized as opposed to the ones that leave you feeling sluggish and with digestive discomfort. Choose foods that taste good to you and make note of the foods that leave you feeling “gross” later. This is the first step in letting your eating fit your life, not your life fit your eating!

2.) Be flexible! Don’t be too restrictive, enjoy foods, especially when they are the right thing! Do not beat yourself up, feel guilty or become “stressed” if you ate too much one day, or indulged in that one treat! Move on! Eating to become the healthiest, happiest version of yourself should never be a stressful thing.

3.) Be mindful. What does this mean? Because of our busier lifestyle, most people eat on the run or over eat before giving their brain enough time to register that you have eaten to begin with. What happens? We feel more hungry, unsatisfied and we place our GI tract under great turmoil and stress trying to break down the food and absorb the nutrients our body needs to function at an optimum level. How do we fix this?? Start small. Focus on one meal a day where you sit down, slow down, limit distractions and pay attention to every bite.

So even if you feel like you “eat pretty good” it may be time to re-evaluate what you’re eating. Is it fueling you and how do you feel after you eat and are you seeing the desired results while experiencing ease and flow around your nutrition. If not then it might not be the right “good” for you and it’s time to explore what will work best for your body!