How Stress From My Job Lead To Weight Gain And What I Did About It

April is Stress Awareness Month, a period in which experts and medical professionals aim to highlight the effect of stress on our bodies and minds.

I have seen, first hand, the impact stress can have on our health (internally and externally) which is why I am so passionate about educating myself and others so stress, as an illness can start to be taken a little more seriously. We are going to be publishing a series of posts dedicated to stress management and awareness but firstly I wanted to share with you my own personal experience and the mental and physical effects it had.

There are many different types of stress and stressful situations, I was incredibly stressed in my previous job to the point where I pretty much burst into tears around once a week out of frustration and anxiety. I allowed this to continue for way longer then it should of because I thought it was ‘normal’, it was my first job out of University and I was under the belief that it was all part of ‘paying my dues’. You spend the next few years grafting your butt off to gain experience, prove yourself and work your way up the ladder; stress was just a by-product.

In fact, it turns out that 36% of Brits – over 11 million of the working population – feel that they have had symptoms of anxiety and depression throughout their professional career, rising to just under half of those aged 18-34. Often at the beginnings of their careers, the youngest of those in employment are most affected by poor work-life balances and increased competition in the job market.

After a few months I started to notice that I was gaining weight. The long hours and intensity of the industry meant that most nights and even weekends I lacked the motivation to exercise, socialise and eat right which ultimately impacted on my self-confidence. I was unhappy and angry - how come using brain cells all day didn’t burn calories? It wasn’t my fault that I was sat at a desk for hours on end, I needed to do that to get my job done, and the last thing I wanted to do at 8pm at night was work out! And even when I disciplined myself to work out consistently and eat healthy, nothing changed.

I eventually sought out professional advice and went to see a nutritionist who educated me on the increased production of cortisol when your body is under stress and how that encourages your body to store fat. It goes back to the days when we hunted for our food and if we come under threat we ‘Fight or Flight’ - either way, your body needs energy and that comes from your fat.

My nutritionist gave me really useful tools and tips to help reduce the excess production of cortisol (see below) and together with some hard work I was able to loose 1/2 stone in just under 3 weeks.

  • Reduce your consumption of caffeine to maximum one a day and drink it with a meal.

  • Allow at least 3/4 hours between meals with absolutely NO snacking (this raises your glucose levels). Herbal Teas are permitted.

  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. Low-glycemic index foods like eggs help lower cortisol levels in the blood while whole grain products help proteins control the production of cortisol in the body.

  • Vitamin B5 and folic acid help lower cortisol levels - They can be found in foods like beans, fish, whole grains, peas, beans, sunflower seeds and fruits such melons and oranges.

  • Stay away from processed sugars and flours.

  • Stick to fruit grown and produced in the UK or close by as warmer climates usually mean more sugar.

This was just over a year ago and although I am not as disciplined today, I still do my best to stick to these rules as much as possible and I have managed to keep the weight off. Although I was able to get my weight under control, the stress from the job was getting worse and worse until I thought enough was enough. I was 24 years old and I should not be getting this upset, overwhelmed and depressed about a job.

You might think it sounds crazy that I went from one stressful situation to another, starting my own business, and you would be right but you would also be wrong. Like I said before, there are many different types of stress. The stress I was under in my previous job was unfairly put upon me, it was negative and it was never appreciated or recognised. The stress I am under now is what drives me and my business, it is positive, it is motivation and at the end of the day I know it will be rewarding. I can also control it and I try my best to do so as much as possible. It can be very easy to let it consume you but I just remind myself that there is only so much one person can achieve in a day, in a week, in a year. The time and energy that stress can also consume is so counter-productive, do not waste time panicking and feeling stressed about the task in hand. Instead, push it to the side (as hard as that can be), get your head down and crack on. The only real solution when you are stressed about a task is to get it done as quickly as possible.

DSC_4650.jpg

Stress is real. It is not an emotional state and if left to consume you it can manifest into a serious illness with detrimental side effects, some that are irreversible. If you're waiting for the right time to focus on stress management and your overall health, it's now.