Many women work so hard to lose fat, gain muscle, and get toned.
They do all the workouts right, they eat right, but get no results. It can be so frustrating! We want the results, and rightfully so, especially because we're working so hard.
But there's one thing that we may not consider, and that is:
The body has to feel safe before it can change.
The body needs to feel safe in order to let go of anything extra.
Why Does Your Body Need To Feel Safe Before It Can Let Go Of Body Fat?
So many of us women are under chronic stress, which can make getting the health and physique results we want difficult. I've talked about this here. If we don’t maintain a healthy balance between go-go-go and chill time, but simply overdo everything, we end up under too much stress and the body simply won't respond to our efforts.
We may see that that belly fat that we carry is extra so of course we want to get rid of it. But the body doesn't necessarily see it this way. It doesn't see that it's extra — instead, it's there to protect it.
Here's Where Most Diet and Fitness Programs Fail…
In order to get lasting fat loss results, it's so important to make sure that our stress is managed. Stress drives inflammation, elevated cortisol, blood sugar issues, insulin resistance. This is not a great environment for fat loss. In fact, this is a great environment for storing body fat.
Stress reduction and nervous system management are majorly overlooked parts of most diet and fitness programs.
This wouldn't be a big deal if most people were chill and relaxed, didn't have demanding jobs, deadlines, and tons of self-created stress coming from perfectionism, comparisonitis and perceived not-enough-ness. It wouldn't be a problem if so many women weren't overtraining and under eating… But they often are.
Most high achieving women are under high stress, and they're also in a chronic fight or flight state, which slows down their results.
Your Mind And Body Always Work Together
It makes sense that long term (or sometimes even short term) extreme calorie deficit will cause a lot of stress in the body. It also makes sense that training too much with insufficient recovery time, causes a lot of stress in the body. The result is often fat gain instead of fat loss, because the metabolism will become so slow that it doesn't want to burn anything.
So, the diet that worked so well at first, has now stopped working…
But how is it that even stressful thoughts, negative emotions, and mental stress in general, can slow down results too?
That's because the chemical responses that happen in the body as a result of these stressful thoughts, are very real. I have written about it here. Your heart rate and blood pressure can go up, digestion shut down, and you release stress hormones when you are anxious and stressed. The brain doesn't know the difference between what's perceived and what's real. So it may perceive your stressful lifestyle as continuously being chased by someone who wants to attack you…
It's obvious that our bodies and minds are not separate but simply two sides of the same coin.
How To Regulate Your Nervous System To Feel Good and Get Fit
If the mind is stressed out, anxious, nervous, all this will always be reflected in the body as well. Getting the results you want and deserve, is a lot harder if you don't give yourself a break from the go-go-go, perfectionism, comparing yourself to others. You're also much more likely to have hormonal imbalances.
Luckily, there are simple things that you can practice every day to balance your nervous system. You will feel better mentally and emotionally, but you also speed up achieving your physique goals if you have them. Having a calm and centered mind almost always means having a well-responding body.
When you notice that you're getting anxious, your heart is racing, you're barely breathing — pay attention to this and then send yourself the signal of chill and safe. Try the following methods.
Take 5 Minutes for Slow Calm Breathing
Note: Yes, slow down your breath but your breathing does not have to be extremely deep. I will get into this in another post, but unless you are in a holotropic breath work class, you want your breathing be light and calm, rather than extremely deep and intense.
Take five minutes to breathe so gently that the small hairs inside of your nose are not moving. Lengthen the exhale. This is how you calm your body down and send it a message of safety.
Do a Body Scan
Body scan is a type of meditation where you tune in to each body part one at a time and relax it. It's great for getting out of your mind and into your body, and to get fully present in it — something that most of us could do more often!
I like to use the Insight Timer app for body scans. You can just type “body scan” into a search box on the app.
Get In The Sun
If possible, sit in the sun for 5-10 minutes, and leave your phone and other distractions inside. Feel the sun energizing you! Morning sun is especially beneficial because it helps to set your circadian rhythm (normal sleep-wake schedule).
Getting a hug from someone or placing your hand on your heart will send your body the message of calm. You're releasing feel good hormones which make your body and brain feel safe. You can also cuddle with your pets, that's another great way how physical touch can balance your nervous system!
Talk To Your Brain
It may sound crazy, but telling yourself that you're safe and okay will send your brain the message of safety. Your brain does hear what you say and how you talk to it.
Note — your brain also hears when you trash talk to yourself, or about others. Again, it doesn't know the difference between you talking badly about yourself or talking about someone else (gossiping, for example). Not only do you increase stress, you also pick up negative energy and the more you do it, the more of the negativity you create.
So, be kind to yourself and let your brain know that you are safe. For example, when you feel stressed out, you notice your heart rate going up, it's time to have that chat with your brain. Literally say this: “I am safe, I am cared for, I am healthy”.
Get Out Of The Fight Or Flight!
Remember that we were not meant to be in a fight or flight mode 24/7.
Short term stress, like the type you get from ice baths, is fine when used in moderation. But chronic stress where the heart beats fast, blood pressure goes up, muscles get tense, digestion shuts down is not supposed to go on and on for hours and days. It will slow down your physique results, too.
You gotta learn to relax!
So give these small actions I listed above a try, or you can find more tips HERE. They are the reset button you need.