June 07, 2010

Conquering Stress with your weight loss

So, the last 2 weeks have been an enormous amount of stress for me. Not 24/7 intense stress, but that lingering feeling of impending doom stress. That I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop before things just get worse. Every time my cell phone rang I feared the worst. I attempted to combat this stress with the normalcy of my life. Making meals, playing with Julia, have the older kids over to hang out, baking, and especially going to the gym. But even with my gym time and my battles against the stress it still seems to have won over my battle with weight loss. Is there any real ‘weight’ to this? Is the stress really causing me to not loose my weight? And how do I get past this wall?

Research does support some link between stress and weight. Stress often causes people to drop good eating and exercise habits that helped them lose weight. This is certainly true in my case. I had Dairy Queen for desert one night, and caught myself several times attempting to over snack between meals. My intensity in the gym even went down the hill. I just couldn’t get motivated!

The other problem was my fatigue that went along with this stress. I had so much going on in my head that most nights I would wrestle with bad dream, or just not fall asleep at all. When people are stressed they have trouble falling asleep. Studies show that a lack of sleep leads to lower levels of the hormone leptin, which can cause an increased appetite. Tired people often turn to food, too, to replenish their energy. I so did this! I remember thinking how eating more “healthy” foods would benefit me during the time of stress, but just ended up over eating and then taking a nap.

When we are stressed most of us who are attempting to change our habits and loss weight become emotional eaters. When we are making these changes it takes so much more than good intentions and information about nutrition and exercise to be successful. The ability to manage difficult situations and feelings effectively—without turning to food and eating—is a necessary foundation for a successful weight loss plan and healthy lifestyle.

Even when we are having challenges in our lives we are still on this journey to make a better self, and need to find ways to conquer the effects of the stress when avoiding the stress is not an option. I need to remember to have these posted on a wall or the fridge to remind me what I need to do when all I feel like doing is eating or sleeping away the stress. Here is a list of healthy stress reducers.
• Take a walk – even at a slow pace, your body will release chemicals to help build back you’re your feel-good moods.
• Stretch – turn on the radio or TV and stretch out the stress in your muscles. Basic stretches can be found here.
• Work up a sweat – when we exercise we release so much tension in our bodies and this is the best way to allow your body to loose weight and de-stress at the same time.
• Get a massage – this isn’t exactly cost affective in my world, but I have a husband who will work out those tense muscles for me too. This really can help or you to be able to ignore the emotional eating and sleeping, and bring you back to the reality of your weight loss.
• Eat something healthy and tasty after you work up a sweat – fruit smoothie, yogurt & granola, trail mix, and just some plain fruit cut up.

So, how to I move from just making healthy habits to making this my lifestyle and not struggling with these hurdles anymore? There are five most common problems that people run into when attempting to identify, work through, and overcome emotional and mental (attitude) problems that people face when they set out to change their lifestyles. These include inadequate problem-solving skills; unrealistic expectations; toxic guilt & negative self-talk; emotional eating; and lack of intrinsic motivation. We will revisit some of these problems this week with a series of motivating and helpful articles on getting past these challenges.

In the meantime, here is this week’s challenge. Weekly Challenge: Keep a journal of your daily food intake and track when you are emotionally eating (stress, bored, tired, or happy). You don’t need a fancy web site to do this, just pull out a notepad each day and write it down.

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