In most cases, helping our personal training clients achieve their weight loss goals is a simple matter of math and science. If they make the recommended lifestyle changes and put in the time and effort, change is inevitable. However, for some clients, adhering to your program and following your advice may not be enough to get them to their goals. When you run across a client who just can’t lose weight, you need to dig deeper to identify their obstacles.
The Chemistry of Stress
While studying to become a certified fitness professional, you learned about homeostasis, the state of balance that the body strives to achieve and maintain. Homeostasis is governed by chemical reactions within your cells, and driven by hormones. As long as you are physically and mentally in a state of relative rest, you are able to maintain a state of optimal homeostasis.
Homeostasis becomes disrupted when you are physically active, as your body strives to meet imposed demands for oxygen and energy substrates. However, once the activity subsides and you return to a resting state, resting homeostasis is quickly reestablished.
Homeostasis is also disrupted when your Central Nervous System (CNS) perceives a threat to your safety. In this case, your inbred “fight or flight” response kicks in, causing a dump of protective hormones that heighten your senses and prepare you to do battle or flee. Once the threat abates, your body restores its chemical balance and returns to homeostasis.
Sleep deprivation correlates highly with stress, and its negative effects are driven by the same chemical mechanisms. When you are stressed, elevated adrenaline levels prevent your body from relaxing, and your over-active mind cannot succumb to sleep. Once stress is resolved, productive sleep patterns are restored, and you are able to get the rest you need to perform at your best, both physically and mentally.
Ongoing Stress and Weight Loss
The problem arises when stress is ongoing, as is common in our culture. Personal training clients are often successful driven people who set high standards for themselves, and whose lifestyles are perpetually stressful. They often skimp on sleep, work long hours, and take little time for recreation. Many even plan their vacations with a grueling schedule of sightseeing and activities, trying to get the most bang for their bucks.
When stress is ongoing, hormonal levels of cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones, remain high. In an effort to produce more serotonin to restore homeostasis, the body begins to crave carbohydrate foods, causing blood sugar to rise and fat metabolism to shut down. A vicious cycle of food cravings, elevated blood sugar, and sleep deprivation eventually lead to weight gain, metabolic disease and depression.
Helping Your Clients Deal with Stress and Sleep Deprivation
Sometimes people are not aware of their stress levels. In many cases, stress is such a common part of your client’s lifestyle that it begins to feel normal. A simple test, called the Perceived Stress Scale, can give you insight into your clients’ stress levels. Once you identify your high stress clients, you can begin to talk to them about how stress affects their health and interferes with weight loss. You can then work with them to devise strategies to help them manage stress and improve sleep.
Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of fitness, but many other factors come into play when it comes to achieving weight loss and other goals. A certification in Lifestyle Fitness Coaching can help you bridge the gap between fitness and lifestyle. Plus, adding a new certification to your credentials can be a great career move for building and expanding your client base.