Stephanie Small is founder of Three Sisters Nutrition, a phone-based practice helping women improve their relationship with food, and blogs for holistic weight loss site 9 Weight Loss. Giveaway Alert! Visit 9 Weight Loss for a chance to win Greens+ Natural Energy Bars!
If you read Food for Thought last week, you know I’m writing a weekly weight loss series in May. Last week’s tip? Eat enough, and enough of the right stuff.
Tip #2: Relax. Stress creates the pear shape
“Crap, there’s only $29.05 in my checking account!”
“My boss is going to fire me!”
“I somehow have to fit work, grocery shopping, dinner and yoga into the next three hours!”
“People, learn how to drive!”
We can all relate to at least one of the above sentiments and its accompanying emotion, stress. For most of us, this feeling is an everyday occurrence. But what does it have to do with weight loss?
Plenty, as it turns out. Here’s why. Back in the day, our ancestors secreted cortisol—the fight or flight hormone—in response to an emergency, like an attack from a rival Neanderthal posse. In response, their blood sugar rose to provide them with fuel, which they then burned off by either fighting or fleeing. Today, our cortisol surges in response to stress, but we’re not using up our fuel. Our blood sugar crashes, and the body stores the sugar as fat.
If that’s not bad enough, once your blood sugar crashes, you’re going to seek out something to raise it—and you’re probably not going to reach for seaweed and almonds. You’re going to grab the sugariest, most caffeinated thing you can get your hands on (nonfat triple whip caramel double lattecino, anyone?) I worked in psychiatric units for several years, and when I learned about the stress/weight gain connection, it helped to explain why so many of us developed the pear shape.
How do we move ourselves out of that anxious, frenetic state towards a more peaceful one? Here are a few of my top tips.
Deep breathing, in through your nose and out through your mouth, is a sure way to calm your nervous system. Flop one hand onto your belly and inflate it with your refreshing inhalations. As you exhale, envision the toxins of stress leaving your body.
Take “me” time.
Everyone needs this. Find someplace you feel relaxed—a room in your house or a beautiful place in nature—and breathe, stretch, meditate, draw, play your trombone, or do whatever it is that helps you feel grounded.
Cry or scream.
Seriously. Who doesn’t feel better after a good cry? The next time you are stuck in your seemingly interminable commute, take the wise words of Depeche Mode to heart and “shout, shout, let it all out.”
Try a Zen approach.
Stress is about what you’re doing, yes, but sometimes it’s about how you’re doing it. Rushing from yoga to therapy to acupuncture is not relaxing. As you go through your day, incorporate your breathing practice, attend to your emotions when you need to…and don’t forget the bigger picture. Remember the world is going to keep turning whether or not you ace that exam, clean the entire house, or argue with your mate
Join Food for Thought next week when I reveal Tip #3. Hungry for more in the meantime? My blog, 9 Weight Loss, introduces you to holistic, sustainable approaches to weight loss (as well as food politics, quirky and delicious recipes, and really, whatever I feel like discussing that day).
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