Stress eating is one of the most popular sources of weight gain in today’s society. We’ve talked in previous posts about what happens when we get stressed. We release Cortisol to “fight or flight”. Since we don’t usually have to fight someone or take off on a fast run. All that Cortisol in our system isn’t good.
The funny thing is in the short-term stress can boost cardiovascular performance. If it’s not too severe the brain will actually perform better. You’ll be able to solve problems more effectively and you’re likely to retain information better. On the flip side though is if the stress is too severe or too prolonged it can actually harm learning. If you’re stressed out you won’t do math as well, and you can’t concentrate. It also attacks the immune system, elevates blood pressure, and can cause depression which will alter your ability to think.
Many times the first sign of being stressed out is weight gain. Many of us eat more when we’re stressed. We’re so busy that we just don’t have time to workout, meditate, eat healthy, etc. All the things that will actually combat stress while reducing our waistlines at the same time. Then we put on weight and get more stressed out.
Here’s a few suggestions of what you can do to destress and at the same time reduce your weight and feel better.
• Exercise. Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Medina’s Brainrule #1 is ‘exercise boosts brain power.’ We’ve heard this a lot but really it has plenty of studies behind it that prove that if you exercise, you will release stress.
• Turn off TV / media. Media presents us with information to worry about. Bad news sells. There are then even more entries on your list of worries, activating more stress. The last thing a stressed out person needs is bad news to elevate their levels.
• Meditate. At IdealShape we talk about this a lot. Fifteen minutes a day (you have this time because you’re watching less TV) can make a huge difference in your stress levels. Meditation brings tangible results of improved concentration, energy, relaxation, and more positive emotions. Andrew Weil, MD, reports, “Meditation may not only make you happier, but also keep you healthier. It can benefit health concerns ranging from stress and anxiety to atherosclerosis and chronic pain.”
• Connect. Surround yourself with positive people who care about you. Be part of the interconnected web of life and connect with your true self as well as spiritual sources and other beings such as animals – your stress level will be more manageable. Get in nature.
• Sleep. Brainrules #7: Sleep well, think well. Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity. Since reading Medina’s book, I have started sleeping more, rather than working late into the night. The result is very positive. Try it.
• Divide and Conquer. You don’t have to do everything on your plate now. Organize & prioritize your day using a divide-and-conquer tactic. Rather than being overwhelmed with a huge project, divide your purpose into parts, focus your attention, and choose to accomplish a small section well. This increases the likelihood you will get a sense of choice, competency, and progress. These three attributes build intrinsic motivation, which build passion and more desire to continue.
• Enjoy the Journey. Tap into life as a river flowing. Laugh at yourself and the situation, if possible. Have a playful attitude. Take a break. Live in the moment. Last week I suggested that we have our operations meeting on the lake instead of in the meeting room. What a difference that made for everyone. You should of seen the Facebook posts.
• Be Grateful. Have gratitude for what you have, rather than regret over what you don’t have. We’ve heard it before “have an attitude of gratitude” you’d be surprised at how much this can lower your stress.
• Cut Debt. That old saying “Debt is Slavery” couldn’t be more true today. The stress levels of our nation have shot up dramatically since the fall of the economy. Whether you are managing a business or your family, live within your means. Cut your expenditures and cash flow. Avoid debt and payoff whatever debt you have. The freedom is provides is liberating.
• Review Your Long-term Goals. What do you really want with your life? Are you living the life you want? Are you at your ideal shape? If not, consider modifying your plans. Perhaps the job and life anxiety is not worth what you are gaining. Looking at the long term goals and giving up things in the short term have been shown to have lasting happiness. Remember you didn’t gain this weight all at once so taking it off over the long haul is much more effective and healthy.
None of these are quick fixes rather life changes that will make a difference in your overall health. In a world of instant gratification, it is good to remember the story of the tortoise and the hare; slow and steady wins the race and also gets to the end happier.