Bodies are Weird and Stress is Dumb

Okay. I’m just going to say it.

In the past four months, I’ve gained 10 pounds.

Those 10 pounds that I worked to lose a year ago.

I’ve gained 10 pounds and my body doesn’t feel like my own anymore.

Do I think that I am worth less as a human because my body has changed? No. Do I feel that others are better than me because their bodies look different? Not really. Am I frustrated that stress has taken over my life and my cortisol levels have spiked and inflammation is normal? Yes. Very much so.

My last post (like, two months ago?) touched a little bit on my headspace in our new home. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but honestly, not much has improved in that capacity. In fact, things got really seriously REAL before they started to slowly improve. I’m gonna vaguebook hard here, because most of the details aren’t truly mine to share, but the redacted version is that we’ve been on a rollercoaster and dealing with some things we totally weren’t expecting or prepared for. Things are getting better, but as with most things, it’s a slow process with slow progress.

Consequently, my routine has been anything but routine. My workout schedule has been all over the place and lower in intensity, I’ve been traveling, and my diet has been… meh. Not bad, but not consistent. The slow march up the scale has been frustrating, disheartening, and really demotivating.

I spent most of last year dialing in my nutrition and training and my body felt amazing. I felt fit and strong and confident – but mostly I felt comfortable in my own skin. Since the cascade of stress started, it’s felt like my body is foreign, which is super uncomfortable and unsettling. My fitness has suffered, my confidence is low, and it’s harder than ever to find motivation to fix any of these problems.

Psychology Today explains the relationship between stress and weight gain pretty well, primarily discussing hormonal changes the body experiences when in a stressful situation:

When your brain detects the presence of a threat, it triggers the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH, and cortisol. Your brain and body prepare to handle the threat by making you feel alert, ready for action and able to withstand an injury. In the short-term, adrenaline helps you feel less hungry as your blood flows away from the internal organs and to your large muscles to prepare for “fight or flight.” However, once the effects of adrenaline wear off, cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” hangs around and starts signaling the body to replenish your food supply. Fighting off wild animals, like our ancestors did, used up a lot of energy, so their bodies needed more stores of fat and glucose. Today’s human, who sits on the couch worrying about how to pay the bill or works long hours at the computer to make the deadline, does not work off much energy at all dealing with the stressor! Unfortunately, we are stuck with a neuroendocrine system that didn’t get the update, so your brain is still going to tell you to reach for that plate of cookies anyway.

I’m not necessarily reaching for cookies all the time, but I do let the cortisol rule my rational instincts.

My relationship with my body is complicated (what woman’s isn’t?). Thankfully, my relationship with food is still okay. Even if I’m frustrated with my nutrition, I know that a big part of why my body doesn’t feel great is because I haven’t been consistent with the plan I was following for success. I don’t binge on junk food, but I do skip meals and traveling has definitely funked up my routine a whole lot. I just haven’t felt motivated enough to buckle down and plan for it appropriately. Apathy, man, it’s kind of a bitch.

When most of your energy and focus is spent on someone else, self-care is easy to talk about and hard to do. It’s complicated, too, because there’s an insane amount of latent guilt that goes along with it. I feel guilty about taking time and focus away from my partner when engage in anything related to self-care, and I know my partner feels guilty, too, as he doesn’t want to take me away from things that I love or want to do.

Guilt abounds – and while neither of us should be feeling it, it’s just one of those things for which we have to continue working on and giving each other (and ourselves) grace.

As my 30th birthday is right around the corner, and things on the homefront seem to be (finally) looking up, I’m ready to shake off this funk and get back to being myself. I’m sleeping better, I know what my nutrition should look like (balanced, not restrictive, fuel for my body and my fitness), and I have a gym community that I feel good about. No pity parties for me – I’m ready to address my stress in healthy ways and work on feeling comfortable in my body again.

My body is good and strong and capable. I am not my stress.

I. Am. Not. My. Stress.

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.