When people consider ways to lose weight, they often think it’s only about diet and exercise. While these things are necessary for good health and weight maintenance, there are other factors that can throw a monkey wrench in your whole program. Hormone imbalance, stress, erratic sleep, and the consumption of sugar can prevent you from releasing fat. No matter how hard you try, or how many calories you burn, you find yourself frustrated and on the quitting side of a perfectly good nutrition and exercise plan.


Stress Robs Us of Our Health

Excuse me while I nerd out for a minute here, but let me explain. Our central nervous system is governed by our conscious mind. Our Autonomic nervous system is governed by our subconscious and is what controls things like our healing process, our heartbeat, hair and nail growth, and cravings. The autonomic nervous system is made up of nerves that transmit impulses to the smooth muscles, cardiac muscle, and glands. These visceral motor impulses generally cannot be consciously controlled. The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic division.*


Our parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our rest, and repair. When this is activated our bodies can effectively digest food, get restorative sleep, and properly heal itself.


Our sympathetic nervous system is activated when there is a stressor or an emergency, such as severe pain, anger, or fear. This is called the “fight or flight” response. This response releases stress hormones like adrenaline. This is very useful if we are being chased by a lion, but if this system is active over a long period of time, it can cause serious health issues. If we are sedentary during psychological stressors (perceived pressure) adrenaline continues to build up and the body is forced to adapt. In a heightened state of alarm (during sympathetic nervous system activation) the body wants to keep you slightly awake to protect from any danger. This makes for a terrible night’s sleep.


How do we activate our parasympathetic nervous system?

The parasympathetic nervous system can be activated through what’s called diaphragmatic breathing. This involves deep inhalation through the nose, letting the belly fully expand. This stimulates the vagus nerve allowing the body to relax, and reduce the effects of stress. Restorative yoga, Tai Chi, or other relaxation techniques can be helpful as well.



Our mouths are designed for eating, drinking, and emergency breathing only. Mouth breathing triggers the stress response; nose breathing triggers the relaxation response.

The way you breathe determines many factors:

  • How well the body’s cells are oxygenated
  • Whether the body is burning primarily fat or sugar
  • The pH balance of the blood
  • The hormonal/brain response of the body to any activity


Stress and Weight Management

Sleep and stress are factors in determining which fuels the body will use as energy. If our sympathetic nervous system is dominant and stress hormones are flowing through our body for an extended period of time, or we are not getting enough sleep, our bodies will use glucose for energy. It will then create cravings for more sugar and carbs. If our parasympathetic nervous system is dominant, than we are likely to efficiently use fat as fuel.


Sleep and Weight Management

Short sleepers have an increased risk of infection, weakened immune system, insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and auto immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Insomnia can be an early indicator of depression. Insufficient sleep can also hinder ones weight loss efforts. Shoot for a good 7-8 hours a night. Eating habits can affect our sleep and dreams, and sleeping habits impact our eating, metabolism and weight.


Sugar, Sugar, Sugar

Fat does not make you fat. Sugar and refined carbs which is also sugar makes you fat. When your blood sugar rises, your pancreas produces insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. It’s the principal regulator of fat metabolism. Higher insulin levels accumulate fat in the adipose tissue (fat cells) and locks them in. Lower insulin levels allows the release from fat cells. We secrete insulin primarily in response to the sugar and carbs in our diet. This includes bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, flour… its metabolized the same way, immediately digested into glucose.

For more information about the effects of sugar, read my blog post http://laurelmarshall.com/fat-is-not-making-you-fat/


Weight Management Specialty Certification

In my work as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer, I am finding that the majority of my clients want to lose body fat. The need is great, and the struggle is real. I decided to study overweight and obesity further in order to better serve my clients and future clients. I just recently earned my Weight Management Specialty Certification from the American Council on Exercise!

 weight management cert


Weigh Less, Live More Workshop!

For more help losing weight, join me for a free workshop Saturday August 27th at the Atascadero Public Library at 11:00 am. You will discover safe ways to release fat, and keep it off for good.   Please R.S.V.P. as seats are limited. For more details visit http://laurelmarshall.com/events/


For Additional Support

My Thrive Program is designed to support busy moms and professionals that struggle to find the time to nurture their mind, body and spirit, let alone prepare nutritious and delicious meals for themselves, and their family. I want to empower women to take their health into their hands, and be their very best self. As a Health Coach, my mission is to help my clients make lifestyle changes that help them to not simply survive, but to thrive!

Contact me for a free health consultation!

Laurel Marshall

Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, & Weight Management Specialist


(805) 296-5825



* Ace’s Essentials of Exercise Science