4 Common Stress Responses and What You Should Do Instead

4 Common Stress Responses and What You Should Do Instead

Physical and biological responses to stress can really mess with our health. We experience varying levels of this emotion every day, so it’s good to draw some attention to some of the unconscious responses to stress that have the potential to damage our wellbeing.  

Here are 4 things you probably do when stressed, along with 4 things you can do to cope with them: 

Common Stress Responses 


When you’re stressed you may unconsciously clench your jaw, tighten up your shoulders, or clench your fists. You probably won’t realize it in the moment, but this habit can lead to pain down the road.  

A tight jaw can lead to headaches or neck aches, and it can also lead to teeth grinding while sleeping. Teeth grinding can also be a source of pain as it can cause tooth sensitivity, receding gums, and headaches 

Do This Instead: Make a conscious effort to relax your muscles. When you notice you are feeling anxious or stressed, try doing a full-body scan in your mind and relaxing each group of muscles as you go. 


Eating has a special connection with stress. Psychology Today explains that stress involves the release of the hormone cortisol. When you have this hormone in your system, your brain sees it and automatically stops producing more so your system isn’t overloaded with it. However, the role it plays in your body is part of the reason why you feel comforted by eating.  

Cortisol tells your body to prepare immediate energy for your muscles to either fight or flee from the stressful situation. When you “stress eat” you’re psychologically comforted by the fact that you are replenishing the energy stores your body has been demanding. 

Do This Instead: When we have access to high-calorie foods, it’s more difficult to turn down the impulse to stress eat. Try to avoid stocking those foods or buy only a small amount. If you don’t have a lot, you’re likely to eat them less often because you’ll want to stretch your supply to last longer. The preferred solution, however, would be to address the source of the stress. That is the healthiest long-term solution.


The opposite of stress eating can also be true. Sometimes, when your stomach is in knots, you’ll find you don’t have the desire to eat at all. The Cleveland Clinic explains that this is more about not noticing your hunger cues because you’re so focused on the stressor. It’s important to note this distinction because loss of appetite can also be a symptom of depression. 

Do This Instead: If your stomach is in knots and you can’t seem to eat, focus on relaxing to melt some of that stress away. Keep a stress ball at your desk, take a minute to step outside, try some breathing exercises, or refocus your energy by giving yourself something to do.  


When things look hopeless, it’s often tempting to just stop trying. Whether you’re struggling to achieve something you’ve been working towards or have encountered an unexpected obstacle, throwing in the towel is a common stress response. The sudden rush of relief from no longer needing to work through a problem can make it easy for us to give up. This is also tied to feelings of anxiety.  

Stress and anxiety can be good for you in small doses. They are good motivators and help you move forward with things that need to get done (for example taking a test or preparing for an interview). When they start to become overwhelming and cause you to withdraw from people, situations, or tasks more than is healthy, it’s a good time to address these emotions more seriously. 

Do This Instead: Instead of throwing in the towel when you feel stressed, ask yourself some questions first. Why did your situation become the way it is? Are your worries realistic or are you blowing the problem out of proportion? Do you have feasible options you’re trying not to take because they look scary or difficult? Being honest with yourself can help you assess your situation better and help you decide if it’s really better to abandon your goal.  

What are some ways that you combat stress in your life? Share your approach with us in the comments below! For more ways to care for yourself, read these reminders of why you are worth the self-love. Stay in-the-know and subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

The Fact and Fiction of Gluten-Free

The Fact and Fiction of Gluten-Free

What is Gluten? 

Gluten is a common term for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, malt, and brewer’s yeast.1 It is what helps maintain the shape and texture of foods made with these grains. The list looks simple enough, but we have not yet considered the various products made from these grains that are then used in various foods. This can make it difficult to really know which consumables contain gluten. 

For example, products like semolina, farina, spelt, farro, bulgar, emmer, and more, are all products made from wheat. If you see one on a food item’s ingredient list, you may not immediately know that it contains gluten.

What is the Problem with Consuming Gluten?

Consuming gluten typically isn’t a problem unless you have a sensitivity to or intolerance for it. People diagnosed with Celiac Disease experience the more serious side-effects because the intake of gluten actually causes damage to the small intestine. Not only does this hinder nutrient absorption, it can also result in symptoms like weight loss and diarrhea.2 For these reasons, malnutrition is a serious concern for individuals with this condition.  

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity essentially means that, even though a person tests negative for Celiac Disease and negative for a wheat allergy, they still experience some of the milder side-effects. Typically, this means they may experience some intestinal symptoms, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain if they consume gluten.2 

Busting the Myths About Gluten

Gluten-Free Diets Aid Weight LossMYTH 

How surprised would you be to learn that the opposite can actually be true? Gluten-free foods can contribute to weight gain because food manufacturers will often add fat and sugar to help recreate the qualities that gluten gives to food.3 In fact, there is no evidence that supports the idea that gluten-free foods can help someone lose weight.3   

The reason gluten-free diets are perceived as beneficial for weight loss probably comes from the fact that going “gluten free” can simply mean sticking to unprocessed foods. For example, avoiding glutinous foods (like cake, pasta, etc.) can mean a lower daily calorie count which is potentially what helps gluten free dieters lose weight. 

Gluten-Free Labels Mean Zero Gluten Content – MYTH 

Research has determined that there is a safe threshold in terms of gluten consumption. So, if a food is labeled as “gluten free,” what that really means is that it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.4 Okay, but what does that even mean? We rarely quantify things this way. Parts per million refers to how much gluten there is in relation to all the other ingredients. This is not a fixed number. Some foods have a little more and some have a little less.  

Each low-gluten food item adds to your overall daily intake. This means that if you consume too many “gluten-free” foods, you can accidentally consume more than the safe amount. Individuals with Celiac Disease are advised to consume no more than 10-50 milligrams per day.4  

Gluten-Free Diets are Easy to Follow – MYTH 

Following a gluten-free diet is actually pretty tough to adhere to, and if you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating (or if you stick to the same foods every single day), you may put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Not to mention that gluten-free foods typically aren’t enriched with the nutrients you’re already missing by avoiding gluten-containing foods.3 

According to an article by the Gluten Intolerance Group, some of the most common nutrients that are difficult to obtain on a gluten-free diet include: 

  • Thiamin 
  • Riboflavin 
  • Niacin 
  • Folate 
  • Iron 
  • Calcium 
  • Vitamin D 
  • Magnesium 
  • Fiber 
  • Zinc 

Which Foods You Should Avoid

If you need to go gluten-free, Healthline explains that the easiest way to avoid gluten is to eat unprocessed, single-ingredient foods. This means you should avoid foods like bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, muffins, pizza, crackers, and certain beverages like beer. You should also avoid foods made or topped with soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, certain broths or marinades, and even some salad dressings.1  

If you are going to consume grains, you are encouraged to stick to foods like quinoa, rice, buckwheat, tapioca, corn, and gluten-free oats.1 To be extra-safe, check the packaging for a “gluten-free” label on these items because many foods that are naturally gluten-free (like oats) may still be contaminated with gluten because they are processed or packaged in the same facility as gluten-containing products.  

The lists go on for both the do’s and don’ts of gluten-friendly dieting, so be sure to check with a reputable source for a more complete list of foods. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for gluten-free dieters? Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 


  1. Raman, Ryan. “The Gluten-Free Diet: A Beginner’s Guide With Meal Plan.” Healthline, 12 Dec. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-free-diet.  
  2. Kubala, Jillian. “Is Gluten Bad for You? A Critical Look.” Healthline, 6 Mar. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-gluten-bad#who-benefits  
  3. Fontenot, Beth. “Gluten: Fact and Fiction.” The Doctor Will See You Now, 28 Dec. 2011, http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/nutrition/art3542.html  
  4. Spector Cohen, Inna, et al. “Gluten in Celiac Disease-More or Less?” Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 2019, https://www.rmmj.org.il/issues/40/articles/897  

An Active Lifestyle is Possible at Any Age

An Active Lifestyle is Possible at Any Age














“I think we really get down on ourselves when we mess up and then we backslide all the way. Try to find something positive. It doesn’t matter what your starting point is, you need to be ready to say, ‘I am done with doing this to myself.’”

Patricia Ebaire

Patricia Ebaire is not just a success story; she is an inspiration to others who believe that older age must certainly translate to struggle. Many of us pair the idea of aging with stiff joints, loss of flexibility, and general aches and pains. Yet, Patricia is here to show us how wrong that notion can be 

Patricia shared her story with us with the hope of encouraging and motivating others to believe in what they can do. “It’s never too late and you’re never too late,” she says. 

We believe in her message and are grateful for the opportunity to share it. This is her story: 

How Patricia Started on the Path to Fitness

Up until about 4 years ago, Patricia was sure that her health was fine. She had always been fairly active and at a healthy weight, so it never seemed of critical importance to monitor her weight very closely. I thought everything was going great and didn’t think much about having gained 5 pounds a year over the course of the last 10 years.” That’s 50 pounds over the total time period. However, when thinking about it on a yearly basis, 5 pounds hardly seems worth noting. Yet, a few years ago, the results of her blood work told her it was time to make some changes. That was her wakeup call. 

Developing Change and Structuring a Routine


With the guidance of her doctor, Patricia adopted some new health goals. Ideally, she hoped to exercise 40 minutes a day. Her actual routine looks more like 2-3 days a week. “It’s an ongoing challenge,” she says. She knows what her ideal fitness regimen would be, but she puts in her best and is satisfied knowing that she does everything she can. 

This is perhaps where most people begin to give up. If they are unable to maintain the very specific regimen they had in mind, they begin to feel a sense of failure that drives them away from their goal. Patricia’s optimism tells her she can just try again the next day! Despite her fitness plan looking different from the initial goal, her progress continues because she does her best to exercise every single day, even if that only amounts to 10 minutes of brisk walking. 

To be fair, her Tuesdays and Thursdays are highly active. On Tuesdays she can be found taking a strength and toning class, teaching yoga, and then playing Pickleball, a sport that merges the elements of ping pong, tennis, and badminton. On Thursdays, she swaps her strength and toning class for weight training and then goes on to yoga and Pickleball. 

“At first, I didn’t think my food choices made an impact because I wasn’t feeling bad.” 


“The other thing I needed to adjust was my diet,” Patricia explains. I knew I had to change how I ate carbs, veggies, and protein. What I wasn’t into was balancing it all. Incorporating the new changes meant “giving up things I was eating too much of. At first, I didn’t think my food choices made an impact because I wasn’t feeling bad. I never used to count carbs and calories in my whole life, but I decided I was NOT going to take a medication. I added fiber, ate less salt, and ate foods with fewer preservatives. Once I did that, eating enough became a challenge because carbs used to be a huge part of my caloric intake and I had to cut that down. But I tell myself every day that each day is a new start. So, even if I backslide a bit, I feel like I can try again the next day.” 

We know that, for many people, adjusting nutrition can be a serious effort. We like to ask people who have done it successfully, what their biggest challenges were and how they overcame them. This was Patricia’s answer:  

Balancing the whole thing was my biggest challenge. I started carrying all my snacks with me so I would never be at the mercy of what food was available at the time. I also always used to look at nutrition labels, but I look at them with a different eye now. I think to myself, Do I want one piece of cake or do I want a couple of meals? If I really get a craving, for example with pound cake, I cut one piece of cake into 8 pieces and I call them “Patricia bites,” so I take a nibble and I SAVOR it. 

Weight Loss Was the Added Benefit Not the Primary Goal

Patricia’s favorite thing about being active was not the weight loss of 54 pounds. “That wasn’t even intentional,” she says. “I just wanted to do what was better for my health.” Her favorite thing was the newfound energy!  

I feel like I can do anything any time. I forget that I’m 66 because there is nothing that I’m not able to do. I live on a second-floor apartment and I can carry 6-8 grocery bags up those stairs at a time. I love the energy! Before I lost the weight, I didn’t even realize how lowenergy I was. 

If You’re Struggling to Believe That You Can Accomplish What Patricia Did:

It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking that a person succeeded because they have something in them that you don’t. To that, Patricia says I think we really get down on ourselves when we mess up and then we backslide all the way. Try to find something positive. It doesn’t matter what your starting point is; you need to be ready to say, I am done with doing this to myself.  

When it comes to sticking to a new routine, Patricia reminds us that there are so many choices in terms of exercise and food! Choose an exercise you like by trying many of them until you find one that makes you smile. “It’s the same with food. Maybe you do not like cabbage, so try spinach, or kale, or other greens. The fact that there are so many choices, means that you can find healthy foods that you like and build a healthy diet around those choices. 

In Moments of Doubt

When you experience a moment of doubt, Patricia shares that it’s important that you don’t beat yourself up over what other people are doing. “Pat yourself on the back for what you’re doing. Wherever you are is a great place. Don’t ever make your place a bad place. Your effort means so much more than what the other person is doing because their muscles have been doing that for years. Your muscles are trying to get there! 

Ultimately, her message to any generation is that “it’s never too late and you’re never too late. It’s okay to start over the next day, so it’s okay to mess up because you can start over.  

Do you have an inspirational story you’d like to share with us? Email us at blog@lafitness.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post! 

For grammatical correctness, length, and clarity, minor edits – none of which alter the original or intended meaning – have been made to the quotes provided. 

Recommended Reading

Successful Weight Maintenance – How Do People Do It?

Successful Weight Maintenance – How Do People Do It?


It’s hard enough as it is to lose weight, and the more we learn, the more we find how many factors stack up against our efforts to maintain our progress. A review of the literature on weight loss maintenance and weight regain has narrowed down the potential reasons for why keeping the weight off is so difficult. To help us understand why weight maintenance is tough, it helps to consider what makes it successful to begin with. 

What Makes Weight Maintenance Successful? 

According to this literature review, successful weight maintenance is associated with: 


  1. Greater Initial Weight Loss 
    • The more weight you lose at the start of your weight loss efforts correlates with how well you can keep your total weight loss off. 
  2. Reaching a Self-Determined Goal Weight 
    • There is potentially a psychological benefit to setting a goal and achieving it that helps you maintain the results of all your effort. 
  3. Having a Physically Active Lifestyle 
    • This can be understood to mean that those who lose weight strictly by dieting will have a harder time maintaining weight loss than those who also incorporate physical activity into their lifestyle. 
  4. A Regular Meal Rhythm That Includes Breakfast and Healthier Eating 
    • Numerous studies have already determined that individuals who eat breakfast are more likely to control their weight,1 so we’re not at all surprised by this one. 
  5. Control of Over-Eating and Self-Monitoring of Behaviors 
    • The ability to practice self-control and to monitor our own behaviors is not a natural skill. It takes practice and will-power to master our involuntary impulses. 

These 5 items are all things you can do. You can work for greater initial weight loss, you can add physical activity to your lifestyle, you can change your nutrition habits.

The following factors also contribute highly to successfully maintaining weight loss, but they are not as easy to manipulate.

According to the same literature review, part of your success is also owed to:

  1. Your Internal Motivation 
    • This is perhaps the reason most of us struggle to start with or stick to plans that we think will be difficult to accomplish. 
  2. Your Level of Social Support 
    • It’s not just a matter of having a support system but a question of how easily you turn to them when you need support. 
  3. Better Coping Strategies and Your Ability to Handle Life Stress  
    • Poor coping strategies can involve eating in response to negative emotions and stress.2 
  4. Self-Efficacy 
    • This is the belief that you can do the things you set out to do. 
  5. Autonomy  
    • This is the ability to make your own informed decisions. 
  6. Your Ability to Assume Responsibility 
    • How well do you take-on tasks that are presented to you? 
  7. Greater Psychological Strength and Stability 
    • How effectively can you check-in with your emotions, recover from setbacks, and recognize maladaptive behaviors? 

In this list we can see how much our psychological, social, emotional, and environmental situations all contribute to our overall ability to care for our health. We haven’t even touched the biological factors that make our individual endeavors more difficult. The bottom line is, there is never ONE reason why you are struggling with maintaining your weight loss. 

Why We Regain Weight

Now that we can clearly see the common factors among those who are successful, we can easily run through those lists and identify which factors are playing a part in our personal struggle. A lot of it is founded in our ability to adhere to certain routines and to new habits. An equally important piece comes in the form of our emotional and psychological strength and the type of support we have.  

What Can We Do About It?

If all these things are tied together, it seems that a person would need a life that is perfect in all ways in order to achieve and maintain their goals. However, we know that no one has a perfect life, and yet there are successful people everywhere. How do they do it and what can we learn from their success that we can apply to our own approach?  

The answer to that is attempted in “Keep the Weight Off” articles everywhere. Everyone has their own idea of which approach works best. Yes, there is some cross-over, but a lot of the advice typically goes back to something along the lines of “watch what you eat” and “do more exercise.” However, if any of the above factors mean anything, the real answer should be something only you can determine based on your individual circumstances. 

Take some time today to think through areas in your life that, if improved, can help you set a foundation for success. A strong foundation can make the difference you need to get where you’re trying to go. 

We invite you to share what you plan to tackle to increase your total wellness and to establish a stronger base. Let us know in the comments below! To read our dietitian’s advice for Slow Weight-Loss, How to Handle a Weight-Loss Plateau, or How to Calculate Your New Calorie Limits After Weight-Loss, click the links to read the QA’s. For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 


  1. Davis, Jeanie Lerche. “Lose Weight: Eat Breakfast.” WebMD, WebMD, 31 Aug. 2010, https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/lose-weight-eat-breakfast#1  
  2. Elfhag, K., and S. Rössner. “Who Succeeds in Maintaining Weight Loss? A Conceptual Review of Factors Associated with Weight Loss Maintenance and Weight Regain.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 10 Jan. 2005, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2005.00170.x 

Why You Should Practice Some Self-Love

Why You Should Practice Some Self-Love

We often write about how to achieve your fitness goals, how to eat well, and how to keep motivated through it all. Today we’re pausing to recognize how amazing you are for keeping the fight. It’s not always easy to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and there are a lot of temptations out there that aim to tear us away from our goals.  

With so much love floating around, Valentine’s Day is the perfect reminder to love ourselves and the bodies we’re in. 

This Valentine’s Day show yourself some love and remember that: 

Your Body is Beautiful

Your body is beautiful, and your nutrition and fitness goals exist to keep it healthy. Regardless of why you hit the gym, the track, the pool, or the nature trail, the fact that you show up deserves applause. It doesn’t matter if you’re there to get shredded, to feel amazing in your swimwear, to regain mobility after injury, or to improve your ability to carry out everyday tasks. You are looking after your body and that’s what makes your effort worth it! 

You are Trying Your Best

We all skip work out days from time to time and we all have cheat days when it comes to our nutrition. We know we can do better and we try again. Sometimes we don’t believe we can, and we give up. It’s only human to experience self-doubt and to falter, especially when the road is long or difficult. Even if it takes a while, you eventually try again. That’s the part that matters! If you’re struggling with thoughts that tell you “I can’t do it,” read our article on How to Stick to Your Resolutions to learn how to combat destructive thought processes. 

Slip-Ups Aren’t Always Your Choice

Sometimes life happens. We get ill, we receive a diagnosis that affects how we can eat or exercise, we can’t afford to buy the healthier food option, we must dedicate our energy to care for others, or we just don’t have enough time. It’s good to recognize that sometimes external factors are imposing their will. Your best option may be to establish “a new normal,” and build a routine with, instead of around, your environment.  

It’s also good to take up new ways to care for yourself. It isn’t all about eating right and exercising. Caring for yourself also means that you:

Take Time to Yourself

We don’t realize how necessary this is until we desperately need to rest and recharge. If you commit some time to yourself every so often, you can significantly reduce the buildup of stress and tension. This can be as little as 10 minutes a day. Silence or turn off your phone and disconnect from the world briefly. It feels amazing when you know your time is protected and for this piece of your day, no one gets to ask anything of you.

Make Sure You’re Sleeping Enough

Our mood, energy, and patience all rely on our sleep. It can be a lot harder to manage small inconveniences, let alone larger problems, when we haven’t slept enough. Now add the fact that our circadian rhythm tends to fluctuate naturally with the changing seasons, and our sleep cycles are thrown even further off course. If you pay more attention to your sleep, you might find that your willpower is stronger along with your ability to stick to your goals. 

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a big deal! Do you ever feel taken advantage of, like your kindness is used, or like others know you can’t turn down a request? So, you’re always the one driving the carpool, always the one picking up the tab, always the one taking the tasks or shifts no one else wants at work (this is assuming you would rather not do all these things).

Without boundaries, your physical and emotional energy can drain fast! It’s good practice to start saying “no,” or to work on not feeling obligated to give a full-length essay with MLA citations explaining why you need to say “no.” Setting healthy boundaries can improve relationships with others and can really benefit your own mental and emotional health, making you more capable of devoting your energy towards your personal wellness goals.  

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

By now we should be well-aware that everyone is different and that this is a good thing. Imagine if we were all the same; how incredibly frightening. It’s understandable why we imagine a standard of what’s attractive, what’s beautiful, what’s fashionable, and what’s socially acceptable. Every group of people will construct their own ideals.

However, there is a reason we ask for personalized nutrition and personalized fitness advice. Our bodies are naturally different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Differences in body type alone can mean that even if two people follow the exact same fitness and nutrition regimen that their bodies will look completely different, even at their healthiest. So, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because the healthiest version of you may not look like the healthiest version of someone else! 

Share your thoughts on how you practice self-care in the comments below! For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 



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