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4 Ways You May Be Stressing Your Body Without Knowing

Good morning friends and Happy Wednesday! I’m showing a day of eats from Memorial Day weekend, which was filled with lots of full hearts, visits with friends and food, obviously.

We all have stress in our lives constantly. Stress is really just a change in our environment that we can choose how to respond to, right? It’s all about how we respond (or don’t) that causes additional stress on our body. And that can build up and have long term complications and negative health effects. So, it is important to find ways to counteract that stress.

But, how can we counteract the stress if we don’t even know how we may be stressing our bodies out?! Here are some things that we may not realize may be causing stress within our bodies.

Breakfast: Pancakes with chocolate chips, bananas, blueberries, peanut butter and a generous dollop of maple syrup. Served with an unpictured homemade latte.



When we undereat, cortisol, our stress hormone, rises. Eating below the amount of calories your body needs to survive and thrive puts a large amount of stress on the body. The body starts breaking down muscle to run the best way it knows how in the given circumstances. With too few calories on board for a long period of time, the body adjusts and significantly slows its metabolism. It becomes catabolic as it tries to conserve as much energy as possible.

Take into account, by eating less than your body needs, it is also nearly impossible to get all of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to work and survive. Therefore, your body will have to work harder, and take energy from elsewhere, leaving it very stressed.

Our bodies are awesome, so it is possible to reverse a slow metabolism but it takes time and work.

[Tweet “How undereating can stress our bodies out #nutrition #RDchat”]

Overexercising or not recovering between bouts of exercise

Exercise is very good for us. It reduces the risk of chronic diseases, improves our mood and brain health, and can be great for social reasons, too. However, there is too much of a good thing. Exercise in and of itself, is a stresser on the body. It creates oxidants in the body. Under normal circumstances, our bodies are primed to deal with these oxidants as they have specific antioxidant systems within. It also helps when we eat anti-oxidant rich foods.

However, overtraining or not giving yourself enough time to recover between bouts of exercise induces alot of stress on the body. It can increase cortisol, which is a fat storing hormone. It tells our body that everything is not okay and it can’t relax.  Overtraining has also been linked to adrenal insufficiency, which can disrupt normal hormonal balance in the body.

If you’re constantly sore or tired, have trouble sleeping or have weird appetite changes, feel anxious or depressed, those may be some signs of overtraining.  Or, if you’ve lost your period as well, that may be a sign of overtraining (and I can help!)

Copper Indian food

Lunch at Copper. We split the tofu/veggie bowl in a coconut cream sauce, and some peppercorn/apricot chicken with lots of naan. Soooo good and filling.

Copper Indian food

Not sleeping enough

We all have times in our life where sleep is a luxury and not a necessity. Deadlines, papers, exams, and life. But, sleep is so vital for our health. Even our muscles rebuild and regenerate during our sleep hours. Just one night of inadequate sleep can throw off lots of hormones, including our hunger hormones (increases ghrelin, our hunger hormone, and turn off leptin, which tells us we’re full). Inadequate sleep will also lower our immune response, and our body will react the same was as if it were stressed and sick. Studies also show that we reduce our insulin sensitivity after a few nights of poor sleep. That means, that the sugar (carbohydrates) we take in through our diet has a harder time getting into our cells to use for energy, and kinda just hangs out in our bloodstream, leading to more fatigue and adverse effects. Also, less sleep = more inflammation and oxidative stress. 

If you’re having trouble sleeping, check back to numbers 1 or 2.

Afternoon snack:  A beer by the pool and some unpictured chips, pizza and an apple. 


Skipping meals

We live in a world where we think we need to exercise way more and eat way less to achieve our desired shape. But, there’s a fine balance that we can miss out on. We’re made to eat every few hours – this is how we keep our blood sugar stable. When our blood sugar is stable, we feel good. We’re not tired, we don’t have crazy cravings and we can be productive human beings. But, when we skip meals to lose weight or so we can eat dessert later, we’re messing with that steady blood sugar. Once it drops when it doesn’t get fuel, we feel crappy, cranky, anxiuos and “hangry.” And then, 9 times out of 10, we’re going to overeat at the next meal. When our body thinks food is not available, it will become more efficient, decrease our energy expenditure (burning calories) and just hold on to stuff.

Our bodies are smart. If we skipped meals or underate days ago, it may take a few days to catch up, but we may be hungrier in the following days.

Dinner: A full plate with friends, after hanging out on the lake all day. And some yummy desserts – homemade banana custard and fruit pizza.

Lake eats Lake eats

And, lots of time in the lake. I even got Tater out on the paddle board – she loved it!

memorial day

[Tweet “4 ways you may be stressing your body without knowing it!”]

Yes, there are plenty of other things that may stress our bodies out as well – being dehydrated, drinking too much caffeine, not doing any/enough exercise, etc. But, you can handle what you fuel yourself with and how much, and how much movement you do. And if you’re unsure, I’m here to help!

What did you do for Memorial Day?

Does your dog like the water?

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  1. the sleep thing for me is huge. I am guilty of not sleeping enough- and I can really feel the effects of it on my body!

  2. Spot on post! I think it is so key to remind ourselves that there is so much we cannot control, so why not take control over the things that we can such as eating well and moving our bodies! And no.. my dog HATES the water! The first summmer I had him he whined and paced when I was swimming in the pool and eventually jumped in after me to try to “save” me.. he’s a 7# poodle … now he is scared for life!

  3. This was a great reminder of ways to take care of your body! I have really tried to focus on getting decent sleep in the past year and have found it makes a huge difference in my abilities and how I feel.

  4. LOVE this post girl! Great explanation and way to break things down.
    I actually never thought I was overtraining, but I have missed my period for the last 2 months now [and I’m NOT pregnant] and am starting to think that maybe it has something to do with it. Granted I just got off birth control [after being on it for YEARS] in December, however I kind of figured things would be figured out by now in regards to that! Still trying to kind of see how all that plays out but seeing as how I typically spend 1-2 hours a day working out, I’m thinking that it may be related to that – even though my body doesn’t FEEL tired or overtrained.

    1. It’s worth exploring – we all have different thresholds for exercising – but I would recommend seeing your PCP or getting with a dietitian who specializes in amenorrhea.

  5. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. When I was in my eating disorder, the 4 things you wrote about were daily occurrences for me and I felt stressed and anxious all. the. time. Now I try to make caring for my body my priority, but after a busy week, I found myself stressed and anxious today, but unsure as to why. After reading this post, I thought back and realized I’d been not taking the time to slow down and eat a full meal during the middle of the day and that I’ve been relying on exercise as stress-relief a little too heavily the last couple days. It’s amazing how quickly your body sends you signals to tell you when you’re not caring for it well! Thanks so much for writing this! It really spoke to me today. Here’s to a rest day and an actual lunch break tomorrow!

    1. Hi Naomi, So happy that you liked this post. I really find that it makes a big difference to mindfully enjoy that lunch or meal in the middle of the day. It’s one of the things I look forward to. Thanks for reading!

  6. This is such an important reminder – especially because most people don’t realise stress is more than just feeling frustrated or anxious about work!

    My biggest problem is not getting proper sleep. I’m a thinker and if I’ve got lots of things happening, even though I’m asleep – I know I’m not sleeping deeply and I end up feeling run down and exhausted!

  7. AWESOME POST. As many of the other commenters have said, this post revealed some problems I need to work on (including under-eating and over-exercising). Thanks for the reminder that less is not always more, and vice versa. This was a quiet memorial day weekend for my family and we definitely enjoyed the time together relaxing!

  8. I think I’m guilty of every single one of these. Lately, sleep has been so good. I’m thankful for that, and I didn’t realize that it affects the way we process sugars if we don’t get enough sleep. The body is so complex.

    Undereating really didn’t help my sleep for quite a few years. I would have a hard time sleeping because of being constantly hungry. But when I started refeeding myself and eating adequately, sleep became so wonderful!

    I’m still learning the balance of not exercising too much; it’s definitely a process of learning that we’re all different in our exercise needs.

    1. Alot of my clients have sleep issues due to undereating. Alot of things can be linked. I’m so glad sleep has been good lately!

  9. It’s definitely hard to find the balance between eating enough and working out to not stress our bodies. I often feel stressed when I’m not getting enough sleep and usually try to take a day to relax on the weekends when that happens. And OMG so many yummy eat! I’ll take the beer, chips, pizza, and apple poolside right now 😉

  10. First off this is the most perfect summer day. I am craving home and lake time now. And burgers.

    Agreeing with Bethany – stress can, unfortunately, be something that is happening in our bodies and therefore not readily “seen” by us. I think this is where body and emotion awareness is huge, and how our habit as a society to distract ourselves and over work ourselves leads us to not even realize when things are off. And then you get into a big spiral that takes work to get yourself out of. Tired = eat more sugar = blood spikes = anxiety = tired. etc etc.

    1. Come visit – we will have lake time and burgers, of course. That spiral is all too real. I think making sure we intentionally include some self care activities, and give our body what it deserves, is so necessary.

  11. All your food looks amazing! I totally agree with all of this. I can tell my body is happiest when I eat regularly and mostly healthy foods, and get enough sleep. Its so interesting how these little things can add to the stress our bodies experience!

  12. I’m definitely guilty of under-eating and over-exercising. Working on it daily to keep making progress and not relapse. The body definitely deserves more respect, NOT more stress! Thank you for those reminders. For Memorial Day, I hosted my annual family get-together cookout (beautiful sunshine this past long weekend!); and my dog LOVES the water.

  13. Love this post! I think stress is way too often just thought of as emotional situations. Exercise and diets can also be a huge stressors. Nursing was a large stressor on my body and I had to really keep my sleep on point and my exercise at a low level. If I did not my supply would drop and I would be so tired.

    1. Hi Bethany – you’re right. Most of us equate stress to just emotional situations or being “stressed out”, but our body can be stressed in other ways. Thanks for sharing!