Healthy Wellness Wednesday,
Most of the time I operate in a zone that is good for me however this week my meditation and mindfulness techniques have been in over drive. Re- framing and stepping back from a situation also helps me look at what is really happening versus what I think is happening as does staying fit and eating well. The combination keeps my monkey mind from getting the better of me. It is fascinating just how quickly our body responds to a stressor. If you recognize it and realizes what is happening you can just as quickly calm the response down. Most of the stress we incur today is emotional and mental as we are not busy running away from tigers to survive. I hope that you find this week’s article useful. Cherish your loved ones this valentine’s day and skip the chocolate 🙂
Stress can make us Fat!
It’s been another hectic day. On impulse, you grab an extra-large candy bar during your afternoon break. You plan to take just a few bites. But before you know it, you’ve polished off the whole thing — and, at least temporarily, you may feel better.
Rest assured you’re not alone. Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating.
How Stress affects appetite
In the short term, stress usually shuts down appetite. A gland in the brain called the hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone, which suppresses appetite. The brain also sends messages to the adrenal glands atop the kidneys to pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Epinephrine helps trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, a revved-up physiological state that temporarily puts eating on hold.
However, if stress persists, or is perceived as persisting, the adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn’t go away — or if a person’s stress response gets stuck in the “on” position — cortisol may stay high
Fat and sugar cravings
Stress also seems to trigger the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both. High cortisol levels, in combination with high insulin levels, may be responsible. A leafy green salad does not seem to come to our mind!
Once ingested, fat- and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect. This is the notion of comfort food. As we all know the effects are temporary. Overeating isn’t the only stress-related behavior that can add pounds. Stressed people lose sleep, exercise less, and drink more alcohol, all of which can contribute to becoming overweight.
How to take the edge off:
• Meditation and Mindfulness: Countless studies show that meditation reduces stress, although much of the research has focused on high blood pressure and heart disease. Meditation may also help you be more mindful of food choices. With practice, a person may be able to pay better attention to what triggers the stress response and resist the impulse to grab a fat- and sugar-loaded comfort food.
• Exercise: It is important to have the right balance. Too little is not good and too much is not good either. Find a good balance that is right for you. Choose exercise that helps you rebuild and repair. You want what we call Flow. The optimal performance zone. Enough to be stimulating and challenging but without taking a physical toll. You should feel great after your workout.
• Food: If you know that you have a tendency to grab sugary treats or reach for a cookie /ice cream, decide to not have those foods readily available. Good nutrition is key to a healthy body and mind.
• Spend time with friends: Social support seems to have a buffering effect on the stress people experience.