Having too much on your plate is making it harder to lose fat, in more ways than one.
We’ve all heard the old adage “don’t bite off more than you can chew” this idea has been spread much farther than the advice of taking life in stride, some women are taking it literally and not biting anything anymore. The results are usually impeccable, or at least seem that way thanks to instagram. A solid six pack is sustained by a few nuts and berries a day to combat the energy lost in a 15 minute poolside workout.
If you’re anything like me this idea stresses you out to new extremes. How are regular women supposed to keep up. This is one the largest issues surrounding women’s health, and has been for years. How are you supposed to work 8 hours a day, take care of the house, your car, your cat, maintain all relationships and pull off that sexy six pack? Don’t even get me started on the holidays.
When are we supposed to sleep?
Over the next month I plan on releasing two more articles similar to this one discussing how stress is messing with your diet and exercise and is making it harder to lose weight. This is not meant to be a guilt trip about dieting and exercising, I’m not going to say go to yoga and eat kale. I want to provide a bit of information on how you can reach your goals, be happy, and make diet and exercise your relief from everything else in the world.
First off is that the problem is that women have way too much to deal with to start a new diet. Especially one that encourages sustaining your body with deep breathing and a milk jug filled with water each day. Adding the diet to your daily life adds extra stress, and that in itself may be what’s keeping you from losing weight or keeping it off.
Dieting Causes an Increase in Cortisol Levels
If you have ready any other health article related to stress you’ve probably heard cortisol thrown around frequently. This is because cortisol is the hormone in your body that says to store stuff to be used for energy later. When humans were being chased by dinosaurs and saber tooth tigers their bodies needed to keep everything they ate because it would need the stored energy. Their stresses were short lasting and would let their body eat up every bit of extra energy storage.
While your body is similar to the original human’s, its stresses are far different. It’s not built to deal with the levels of stress you’re constantly under, which means you have to take care of it differently.
Elevated cortisol levels are most commonly seen with people suffering from chronic stress or maintaining a low calorie diet, these findings have had researchers calling for a change in encouraged dieting habits. But to no avail.
In 2010 Tomiyama, Mann, Vinas, Hunger, DeJager, and Taylor wrote in their study “Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine”:
“…monitoring one’s diet increased perceived psychological stress, and restricting one’s caloric intake increased total daily cortisol. These findings lend support to the idea that stress may be a mechanism of diet failure. Monitoring one’s diet involved continuously recording consumed food. Like the stressors characterized in the daily hassles literature (“irritating, frustrating demands that occur during everyday transactions with the environment,”) (32), monitoring via the use of food diaries likely increased perceived stress by creating repeated stressors throughout the day.” 
Most major fad diets require extreme levels of starvation, and when you shock your body with it you not only cause a minor stressor, but keeping your diet that way will lead to chronic stress.
Shawn Talbot wrote in his book “The Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health – And What You Can Do about It”:
“Over the long term, elevated cortisol levels can be as detrimental to overall health as elevated cholesterol is for heart disease or excessive blood sugar is for diabetes. Aside from that elevated cortisol levels make you fat, kill your sex drive, shrink your brain, squelch your immune system, and generally make you feel terrible.” 
The dieting industry is one of the largest businesses in the world, and it is continually growing. This is even despite the notable growth in body positivity and satisfaction in women. What many researchers are taking this to mean is that women are satisfied with their bodies, but are looking to make them better. They want to be thinner, stronger, and sexier.
There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS.
The problem lays in the types of diets that are being encouraged, and especially pushed for women who have little to no experience in health and fitness. If this is your first week at the gym, or even your first time looking into getting into shape I am so proud of you. But picking the wrong diet leads to failure, dissatisfaction, stress, and weight regain.
These diets are great for immediate results. Cutting your calorie intake to 1000 a day will make you lose weight. You will feel thinner as your body starts to eat itself. But this type of diet is one of the least sustainable forms of weight loss because it works so quickly. You hit your goal in a month and then what? You binge on mickie D’s and don’t stop until New Year’s when you’re feeling bloated and gross from too much champagne.
Nearly 95% of women who engage in drastic diet changes end up failing and regaining the weight they lost and then some within the year. One of the biggest causes of failed diets is that they are started in one day and expected to work within weeks.
Failure Causes Stress:
There is nothing wrong with these goals, except when they become an expectation and inevitable failure because of a lack of education and fad diets. Nearly 95% of women who engage in drastic diet changes like is expected with fad diets end up failing and regaining the weight lost within the year.
These diets are problematic especially for women who have little to no experience in health and fitness because not only do they lose unhealthy amounts of weight quickly, but when the diet eventually fails they are filled with guilt and usually regain that weight quickly. This type of ‘up and down’ weight loss is also a major cause of chronic stress.
Going back to the “Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol. Psychosomatic Medicine” study, the researchers outlined the need for dieting. They wrote:
“The relationship between dieting and both perceived stress and cortisol has been investigated in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. For example, in a study of 17,159 adolescent females, French and colleagues found that dieting five or more times in the past year was correlated with emotional stress in Whites, Blacks, and Asians. Researchers have long known that fasting and starvation are associated with an elevation of cortisol or failure to suppress cortisol after a dexamethasone suppression test” 
Their failures are caused by small bumps that occur when you try to change habits quickly, things like eating that donut at work or missing a day at the gym can wreck the perceived achievement of maintaining a diet. This thought is brought about despite the evidence showing that changing your diet quickly and starving yourself will lead to worse cravings and less energy.
So you are creating an environment where your body is craving that donut and quickly killing any will to resist its temptation.
Eat healthy foods. Eat more healthy foods than you do junk food. But don’t stress over diets that will starve you. Your goal should be healthy habits not fad diets.
How to Avoid Failure:
The most important part of any diet is that you not fail, but a diet isn’t the necessarily the way you want to achieve fat loss. What is most needed in any program is the built up healthy eating lifestyle, which means a life that doesn’t rely on a calorie deficit to build a healthy body. Setting yourself up in a lifestyle that can not only handle failure, but makes it really easy not to fail has been proven time and time again to be the most successful way to lose fat and build lean muscle.
So why not start trying this, rather than a new fad diet that you’ve read mixed reviews about.
- Up your protein intake and lower fats and carbs to fit in a 50/30/20 split in a 2000 calorie diet. This will be difficult especially for those of you who typically hit 1300-1500 calories a day. This will make you gain a little weight, but it will mostly be muscle.
- Once you have done that for 2 weeks and are used to the split, cut your calories down to around 1600-1800 per day. This is more than enough of a cut that when paired with exercise you will notice changes.
- Enjoy that slice of cake once a week (or more if your macros let you.) Going over on calories is good to do once a week because it helps reset your metabolism and leads to better fat burning. (And letting it be fatty or sugary will make it easier to stick to your plan the rest of the week.)
- Dip into a Whey Protein Isolate. No, seriously though. Especially if you are currently taking Sexy Shred a protein supplement will be more than helpful with improving your body composition. AND there have been more than a few studies that cite the benefits of whey protein isolates for lowering overall cortisol levels, which you already know is imperative for improving body composition.
Sexy Whey is a whey protein isolate that was created by women for women, it’s sole purpose is to help you create an environment in your body that is ready to burn fat and build muscle properly. Thanks to the insane levels of amino acids in this isolate you can help your body break down the cortisol and relax a little while your body burns fat the healthy way.
Really the important lesson for you here is to build a program that is sustainable and makes you happy, something that’s not hard to stick to even when you are stressed over anything else. If you take care of your body the way that it needs to (which means drop whatever diet you are on right now) then you will see better and longer lasting successes, without the stress of failure and starting over.
-  Tomiyama, A. J., Mann, T., Vinas, D., Hunger, J. M., DeJager, J., & Taylor, S. E.Low Calorie Dieting Increases Cortisol.Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(4), 357–364 (2010).
-  Shawn M. TalbottThe Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health – And What You Can Do about It.Hunter House, 2007 .
-  Nadia J. T. Roumans, Stefan G. Camps, Johan Renes , Freek G. Bouwman, Klaas R. Westerterp, and Edwin C. M. Mariman.Weight loss-induced stress in subcutaneous adipose tissue is related to weight regain .Access Volume 115, Issue 5 March 2016, pp. 913-920 DOI: .
-  Bourre JM.Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain.Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006;10(5):377–85..