Is your Workout Routine Sabotaging your Weight Loss Goal?

Monday: Squat challenge (gotta get that Kim K booty)

Tuesday: Body Blast Wednesday: HIIT training (burn my belly fat!)

Thursday: Session with PT

Friday: 5 mile run with friend at 6am

Saturday: Outdoor bootcamp.. urgh, so sweaty & muddy! Sunday: It's a rest day, so I'll just do a Hot Yoga class this morning then go for an hours walk later this afternoon....

Does this look similar to your exercise regime?

You are working out really hard, eating a healthy diet, but you just cannot lose the 'spare tyre' around your middle or your 'thunder thighs'. You managed to drop a stone to start off with, and that got you a lot of compliments which made you feel amazing, but now you are feeling worn out and just a bit BLAH?

Let me start off by saying, by no means do I link weight or body fat to poor health and I don't believe that all women need to have flat stomachs, toned arms and lean thighs in order to be beautiful or healthy. However, a hormone imbalance can alter our physical appearance and this needs to be addressed because left untreated, these imbalances can lead to other, more serious, chronic illnesses.


"There is a difference between a naturally larger, curvy body and one that is inflamed, puffy, and has changed, due to a hormone imbalance."


Some women get acne, excess weight around the mid-section, swollen ankles, a goiter or a 5 o'clock shadow. You may have all of these things! (If you do, it sounds like you have a M A J O R hormone imbalance and you should get in touch sista!)

People tend to forget that exercise is a stressor. This type of 'good' or 'positive' stress is known as 'eustress'. In the short term, Eustress can help to strengthen our body and make us more resilient, but if you push too hard, under recover or have lots of stress in other areas of your life, this extra stress can become negative and may actually do more harm than good!

The link between cortisol & weight

Our nervous system can only be in one state at any given time, either sympathic (fight, flight, flee) or parasympathetic (rest, digest, heal).

When we engage in exercise that increases our heart and breathing rate significantly (eg running, cycling, HIIT classes, weight training) our body automatically shifts into sympathetic mode, so that our blood is shunted from our digestive system and other organs into our extremities, so that we can move, run, lift and burpee (if you are weird like me and love burpees!).

If we remain in this fight or flight mode for too long, or if we don't balance it out with enough time spent in the parasympathetic mode, our body starts to produce our main stress hormone, cortisol.

I like to think of cortisol like a fire hose. Short term it's protective, as it helps to dampen inflammation in the body, like a fire hose putting out fires. However, left unchecked or if its activated too often, this 'positive' mechanism can start to cause destruction and further problems internally. Imagine the fire hose now spraying the whole street and roads with tons water, flooding the entire scene and creating unnecessary damage.

The body is very clever and purposely stores a lot of body fat around the abdomen when cortisol is high, due to an evolutionary protective mechanism. The adipose (fat) tissue around our mid section contains 4 times more cortisol receptors than any other tissue!

"But why the belly...why can it not go to my butt?!"

Your most precious organs are located in this area (minus the brain) so your body is designed to shuttle excess fat and 'protection' to this area during times of stress, just in case you get into a battle with a grizzly bear.

Elevated cortisol levels can also affect the production and conversion of our thyroid hormones, which is another way we can be left feeling tired, puffy, achy and unable to lose weight.

Exercise increases our nutrient demand, therefore we need to ensure that our diet is providing us with the necessary building blocks so that we can repair, build muscle and support our stress system. If we are missing key macro (protein, fat, carbs) or micro (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) nutrients, this will be yet another stress on the body and can you guess what often comes next?... You got it, weight gain and/or weight loss resistance!




What you can do....

"So what the heck should I do now then?!"... I hear you ask.

Well, you can start by simply lowering the frequency and/or intensity of your workouts if you are dealing with symptoms of excess cortisol or a hormonal imbalance. It is important to stay active and get enough daily movement, however I recommend you try 'working out' for 30-45 minutes, 3-5 days a week so that your body has chance to repair and lower those stress hormones. Opt for lower intensity activities such as walking, yoga, Pilates and weight training, rather than running, chronic cardio, boot camp style classes, aerobics and more than 15 minutes of HIIT.

Another way to lower your stress load and reduce cortisol is to eliminate the other sources of stress in your life. Easier said than done right?

If you're not sleeping well, try to get outside during the day and exposure your eyes to daylight and ditch the gadgets at least 90 minutes before bedtime!

Running on caffeine and sugar all day for energy? Replace coffee with herbal teas such as green tea or Tulsi and increase your intake of protein and healthy fats to combat sugar cravings and stabilise blood sugar.

Hate your job? Speak to your boss, start looking for a new one, or change your perception about your current situation. All of these positive changes can start to shift your body from a state of stress to one of safety and ease. When your body feels at ease and is balanced internally, it can easily get to and maintain a healthy weight set point.

If you feel like you need more support in this area? Learn more about working with me here





Supporting research