The Link Between Keeping Secrets and Weight Gain
Secrets, secrets are no fun unless you share with everyone. I’m guessing we’ve all heard this phrase before. Probably in the context running around the playground during recess in 4th grade. You know the scenario: Amanda refuses to tell anyone other than Samantha that she has a crush on Billy, so Ashley starts chanting “secrets, secrets…” with the hopes of getting the goods out of someone.
I’ve always thought that the “secrets, secrets” chant was a bit annoying. If someone doesn’t want to share their secret why should they? It’s their secret. Maybe they aren’t ready to open the Pandora’s box of their secret life. They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, worry about causing problems with their loved ones or wonder how they will be perceived by others. I mean once you tell your secret you can’t take it back. Secret telling isn’t like giving your friend a pair of bad socks for Christmas where they’re free to take it back to the store, no harm done.
But maybe there’s more legitimacy to this chant than I first thought. Secrets can eat you alive. You may not notice at first, but that secret you’ve been holding on to for the past how many days, months or years can wear you down bit by bit. You may think at first that it’s fine, and you can cope on your own, be that happy chipper person everyone “knows”, and just keep on chugging along. But guess what? The toll this secret takes from carrying it around will show it’s ugly head in some way or another. This secret could be anything. Maybe you’ve been the victim of abuse, cheated on your partner or you participated in some sort of illegal act back in high school. Either way, secret keeping can eventually affect you mentally and physically, and can even sabotage your fitness goals.
No matter what your secret is, it can hold you back from attaining your full fitness potential. If your past is built on negative experiences it can interfere with personal development and building a strong, positive mindset. If you’re constantly thinking “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’ve never been healthy, so I’ll never be healthy”, or any other negative thought, then you will never achieve your fitness goals. Achieving your desired level of fitness takes mental toughness; you need to be able to get your fitness on when you don’t want to, eat healthfully and moderately, and most importantly believe that you can achieve your fitness goals. Unfortunately that can’t happen if your mind is full of negative self talk. Seeking out a confidant can help you to understand your situation and replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
The stress of keeping a secret to yourself can also cause emotional eating if you’re someone who turns to food for comfort. The Mayo Clinic says that those who are emotional eaters tend to eat too much, especially high fat, high calorie, sugary foods. Using food as a coping mechanism is a recipe for disaster. Combining negative thoughts and emotional eating will only produce unwanted results.
Beyond interfering with your strong and positive mindset, holding onto a secret can physically make you sick. According to Forbes, holding onto secrets can cause stress hormones to be released in the brain. Over time the continuous presence of stress hormones will take their toll. Author of the article, “Keeping Secrets Can Be Hazardous To Your Health”, Gina Roberts-Grey says that, “Every time you think about a deeply held secret, stress hormones such as cortisol can surge, impacting your memory, blood pressure, gastrointestinal tract and metabolism…The bigger the secret, or the riskier you perceive its protection, the more intense the conflict within your brain, resulting in higher anxiety and a more potent fight-or-flight effect”. Spiking cortisol levels can also weaken your immune system, disrupt your sleep and make you moody.
As we already know, the presence of high levels of stress and cortisol, irregular sleep, a weak immune system, low metabolism, being unhappy as well as every other side effect caused by increased levels of stress hormones in the brain do not build a strong base for optimum health and fitness levels. Below is a general overview of how cortisol, a lack of sleep and a slow metabolism can make weight loss a struggle for even the fittest of people.
- Cortisol: The presence of high levels of cortisol is associated with weight gain and belly fat. Bodybuilding.com says that cortisol “has the opposite effect to testosterone, insulin and growth hormone in that it breaks down tissue”. Did you know that the primary functions of cortisol is to reduce protein synthesis, convert protein to glucose and stops tissue growth? Ummm, no thanks!
- Lack of sleep: The New York Times published an article on the effects of losing sleep and weight gain called “Lost Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain”. In this article it states, “Losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row can lead to almost immediate weight gain”. Researchers found that participants in a sleep loss study ate a larger number of calories throughout the day than the control group. They also consumed more carbs, increased after-dinner snacking, and weren’t eating as healthfully as the control group. By the end of the first week, the sleep deprived participants had gained an average of two pounds.
- Slow metabolism: A slow metabolism is often times associated with weight gain. In “Metabolism: Does a Sluggish Metabolism Cause Weight Gain?” Dr. Rick Tague discusses how even the slightest decrease in your daily metabolism rate can cause a substantial weight gain over time. He says, “Even a 1% reduction in resting metabolism, if eating remains the same, will result in about 13 calories a day of unwanted weight gain. Over 30 years, this is 50 lbs of unwanted body weight”!
- Quick recap: reduced protein synthesis + the desire to munch on junk + instant weight gain + long term weight gain = holy crap something needs to be addressed before disaster strikes.
How in the world is anyone supposed to be healthy and fit, even if they are watching how they eat and are exercising, if a deep dark secret is waging a war on their body? You may be working your butt off, eating a clean diet and yet still struggling to shed those extra pounds. If this is you, ask yourself what’s going on internally. Do you have a secret that needs to come out?
Free your mind and your body will follow
The first step towards freeing your mind is quite possibly the scariest; you need to talk to someone. Find someone you can trust, is on your side and will not judge you. Speaking about whatever it is you have been holding back is one of the most freeing experiences you can have. I promise that the world will not crumble around you. Ultimately you are in control of what happens next. You decide how to proceed, how fast or slow to go, and what the next step will be.
Talking about your secret can also give you another perspective. Our brains have this amazing way of building up experiences in our mind until they become this monster we can’t conquer. We also overthink the consequences of talking. If you choose the right person to talk to they can help you navigate uncharted territory, and maybe will have a solution you hadn’t thought about.
I understand that sometimes you need time to gain the courage to talk to someone about your secret. If this is you, Gina Roberts-Grey suggests writing a pros and cons list of holding onto the secret that is causing you stress. While experts don’t know exactly why this helps, studies showed that writing a pros and cons list actually lowers stress hormone levels and blood pressure, and improves mental health. This exercise might even help you realize how important it is to talk to someone, and how you have the courage to do it.
Long story short, holding onto secrets isn’t worth your health.Talking about my secret gave me an outlet and a place for my thoughts to go, so that they were no longer constantly in the back of my mind. I have yet to completely resolve issues from my past, but every day is a step closer and I can feel the stress melting away. I still have a lot of personal work that needs to be done, but I look forward to being a stronger person because of my past. Once the burden of carrying around negative thoughts and experiences is let go you can really begin to thrive and reach those health and fitness goals you have always wanted to attain.
Until next time,
Mayo Clinic – “Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating”
Well Blogs New York Times –“Lost Sleep Can Lead To Weight Gain”
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