Allostatic Load & Emotional Labor are stifling your fat loss efforts.

Say What?….Perhaps these are terms you’ve never even heard of before, so how are they impacting your health and your waistline so much? Essentially they are your total STRESS accumulation. They are all the things in your life that contribute to your sense of overwhelm. Let’s define them, and then you shall see!

Allostatic Load is “the wear and tear on the body” that accumulates when an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress. All of the long-standing effects of continuously activated stress responses are referred to as allostatic load.

Emotional Labour is the expectation of a person’s responsibility to regulate emotions – sometimes other’s as well as their own.

Let’s first talk about Allostatic Load. What is your personal Allostatic Load? It’s different for everyone of course, depending on the amount of responsibilities and current circumstances, but I’ll bet it’s pretty significant! I’ll list some common things that contribute to your Allostatic Load:

  1. Work
  2. Parenting
  3. Money issues
  4. Pollution/Environmental toxins
  5. Sugar and other processed foods
  6. Lack of sleep
  7. Relationships
  8. Traffic
  9. General Responsibilities

We don’t always give stress the respect it deserves. We think “I can totally handle all of this”, and we simply power through. Until one day we wake up with a nagging health issue that “came out of the blue”. But in actuality, it’s been building and compounding for years. Stress is all around us, in this modern culture we LIVE stress. It’s a badge of honour to be busy. It seems that we actually revere those who are running around accomplishing the heck out of life. How many times have you looked at someone and thought “Wow, look at her go, she’s so busy and has it all together. That’s amazing, I wish I could be like her…” Or something along those lines. We feel guilty for needing rest, for calling in sick, for taking time off. Allostatic load can actually contribute to the onset of Heart Disease, Diabetes, and even the Common Cold. It has serious implications to our health!

Now let’s talk Emotional Labour. I’d say this is actually a part of your total Allostatic Load, but I wanted to single it out because it’s something we really don’t realize contributes significantly to our stress levels. To give you a better idea of what Emotional Labour is, here are some common examples:

  1. mediating between arguing children
  2. Having difficult conversations with others about work, finances, responsibilities, etc
  3. Being the main decision maker in your family
  4. Listening to and supporting others who are going through difficult times
  5. Being assertive in the workplace (but not too assertive, because you’re worried about being labeled as ‘bossy’ or ‘bitchy’)
  6. Holding in your emotions because you don’t want to be the ‘cry baby” or ‘sensitive woman’
  7. Being expected to host events, to plan birthdays, to organize dinners, to choose outfits, to have an opinion and be organized for everything
  8. And so, so, so much more!

Your degree of Emotional Labour is probably massive as a woman. It’s not to say that men don’t deal with this too, but women are known as the caretakers. Our culture just expects us to do all the planning, caring, organizing, and mediating. Take a moment here and think about your life, do you see yourself in the list above, or can you think of other Emotional Labour examples for yourself? Did you realize that these were contributing to your stress? Consequences of Emotional Labour include: fatigue, burnout, general dissatisfaction, and even depression. It’s a tricky one because as I said above, our culture defines this stuff as “just what women do”, it’s our “duty”, our “responsibility”.

SO! Let’s circle back to how this is affecting our fat loss. As I’m sure many of you are aware of, when your stress levels are high (whether you realize they’re high or not) your cortisol will also be higher than it should be. This contributes to poor sleep, poor blood sugar regulation, food cravings, lack of motivation to workout, and a tendency to hold onto belly fat. Obviously this alone contributes to our inability to lose weight.

But the main issue I want to discuss here is lack of motivation and energy. I mean who wants to give more effort to cook a healthy meal or find time to workout when your Allostatic Load is over flowing? Not me! Probably not you either. We wonder why we can’t follow through and stick to a workout routine or meal plan. We promise ourselves that this week will be better, Monday morning we’ll “start fresh”. But guess what? Monday might turn out fine, maybe even Tuesday. But your Allostatic Load didn’t go anywhere and the stress of your week catches up to you by Wednesday. All your good intentions fall away and you’re back to sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, and eating junk food. The culprit is not your willpower, it’s your life!

OK, so we can’t exactly change our lives right? So what do we do? We recognize the problem, we own the problem, we find solutions.

Step 1: Write out all the major stressors in your life. Everything from your job, your family, to planning your kids birthday party, or even grocery shopping. *Note here that stressors aren’t the same for everyone – some people LOVE to plan, cook, and shop. So make sure to write down YOUR stressors*

Step 2: See if there is anything on your list that you can take out or atleast delegate to someone else. *Note here if you feel like you “have” to do everything. News flash – you don’t!*

Step 3: Create your ideal workout/nutrition plan. When do you want to workout? What do you want to eat for each meal? *Make it REALISTIC*

Step 4: Make an “if/then” plan to deal with the possibility of failure. For example: IF I have to work late and miss my fitness class, THEN I will go for a walk/jog instead. IF I forgot to grab groceries and have nothing for dinner, THEN I will grab a pre made salad/wrap/_______ instead. IF my kid is sick and I need to stay home with them, THEN I will do a home workout on YouTube instead.

Step 5: Accept that things happen, accept that you are not perfect, accept that your life is full of stressors and the only thing you can do is your best. And accept that your “best” will change day to day depending on what is happening in your life.

So why does this work? Because AWARENESS is KEY. If you aren’t even aware of the amount of stress in your life how will you ever make steps to change it? Honour the fact that your Allostatic Load and Emotional Labour tipping points are different than anyone else. Why can some people “handle it”, while others fall apart? Because we’re all different, we all have a unique set of biology that sets us up for reacting to things in our own way. Don’t try to be like someone else, work with what you have. That alone will dramatically reduce your stress!

Remind yourself that consistency is key, that small steps are better than no steps, and as long as you’re moving forward, then you’re on the right path!

In Wellness, Krista

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