Have you ever wondered why so many people have trouble losing weight despite dieting, weight loss programs, prescription or over the counter drugs, exercise and supplements designed to help you lose weight? It’s amazing how this problem somehow evades solution. And there can be many reasons for weight gain but they usually have certain things in common.
Overeating is the most obvious cause. But it’s not the whole truth, because it doesn’t explain why people overeat or why it becomes so hard to take and keep the weight off. One not so obvious cause is stress – a condition which creates hormone imbalance. Stress effects not only your emotions and mind, but your body as well.
Is Stress always Bad?
All types of stress are not harmful. When you are faced with a situation that demands immediate action, such as how to get your family out of a burning building fast, your body reacts by producing two hormones, Adrenaline and Cortisol. The adrenaline increases heart rate, raises blood pressure and gives your body a sudden burst of energy that allows you to do things ordinarily beyond your ability. This is sometimes referred to as “fight or flight” reaction and is a useful survival mechanism.
Cortisol increases blood sugar, raises the brain’s ability to utilize glucose and releases substances needed to repair tissues. This creates by-products that tend to make the body more acidic. At the same time it turns off functions that are not essential to immediate survival such as the immune, digestive and reproductive systems.
In cases of acute stress, such as running away from a tiger or even the thrill of taking a boat over white water rapids, as soon as the stressful situation is over the body goes back to normal.
Nowadays, most people live more sedentary lives. And although the environment may appear safer, modern lifestyles can be very hectic and stressful. Financial insecurity, terrorist attacks, substance abuse, work instability, declining spiritual values, and bad news on the media daily, can make for what is called chronic stress in the environment. This chronic stress can ruin your health and life.
Chronic Stress, Health Problems and Weight Gain
When you have been in a situation that seems unsolvable for a very long time such as a job you hate, a tragic loss you can’t stop thinking about, or an unhappy marriage – and you are losing or have already lost hope of ever getting out of it, you are under chronic stress. And your body will be creating cortisol non-stop.
Long term production of cortisol leads to continued glucose production and increased blood sugar levels. It also creates insulin resistance. Insulin resistance and high blood sugar result in energy starved cells. Your body sends out hunger signals. So you overeat and gain weight. Being overweight can result in diabetes, cancer, stroke, heart disease and other bad health conditions in addition to just being overweight.
Some common everyday causes of stress that can build up:
· Physical stress comes from overwork, exercising beyond your capability, getting inadequate sleep as well as illnesses or injuries.
· Toxic substances such as excess caffeine, alcohol, drugs and medicines, additives in processed foods, pesticides, herbicides and chemicals in cleaning or beauty products stress your body.
· Stress can be self- created by thinking you have to be perfect, driving yourself to work way beyond your comfort zone and constant worry.
· Bad emotions such as sadness, loneliness, fear and anxiety definitely create stress.
· When you are not reaching your goals and/or have lost sight of who you really are, you may find yourself abandoning your core spiritual values and beliefs. This is bound to cause stress.
· An improper diet such as the typical American diet (containing large quantities of processed foods, sugar and artificial sugar substitutes, refined white flour, highly processed oils and an excess of animal foods) creates an acidic body pH which stresses the body.
Don’t Fall into this Trap
Sometimes weight gain creeps up on you so gradually that you hardly notice. But after time, most people finally realize that they are overweight or even obese. This can be a shocking experience to some, but at least it opens the door to now being able to do something about it.
Once you face the fact that you need to lose weight there are several choices you can make. If you ignore it, and continue the same lifestyle and diet as before, chances are you will continue to gain weight and may then find yourself in a serious illness or non-optimum health condition.
We recommend you do something about it! You may decide that desperate conditions require desperate solutions and go all out on a weight loss diet, vigorous and strenuous exercises, weight loss medications or supplements and more. Some become so obsessed with weight loss that life becomes even more stressful. This is a trap. Don’t go there…
Actually, desperate situations require lighter remedies. By changing your lifestyle and diet a little bit at a time and not making it difficult, you can reduce stress and eventually lose weight.
How to get Started
A simple way to change lifestyle and diet involves developing better survival habits. A good definition of “habit” is a usual way of behaving, something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. So how do you change a habit?
The way you change a habit is to pick out the specific one you want to change and decide how you will change it. For example, if you have been eating a lot of sugar or artificial sugar substitutes (as bad, if not worse than sugar), you might decide to switch to Stevia, a totally natural and safe sweetener. You would throw out or get rid of sugar and sugar substitutes and purchase enough Stevia for all your sweetening needs. This product comes in powder, little packets much like sugar and liquid.
The new way you would sweeten foods or beverages is with Stevia. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is simple. Instead of sugar in your coffee, you take Stevia. You carry some in your purse or pocket. You no longer purchase sugar.
You just do this over and over until it becomes a new habit. And when starting, it is helpful to choose the easiest habit first. The reason for this being that many people give up on weight loss because they aren’t getting results. They are having losses. It’s important to win. In the above example, when you finally stop eating sugar or artificial sweeteners and use Stevia, you have succeeded and that’s a win. Every win or success helps to make you stronger.
This could be the start and if you actually cut out sugar it would make a difference. Then you can pick out the next easiest change you feel you need to make that would not be hard to do..
Simple ways to Reduce Stress
Remember, if you do have chronic stress your body will produce Cortisol and that makes it hard to lose weight. Recently, there have been products that have been marketed as “Cortisol blockers”. These are not only ineffective, but can put further stress on your body. Drugs are not the answer. They make your body more acidic and stressed out. It’s easier and safer to take actions that lower stress. Here are some for starters.
1. Get exercise: If you’ve heard the phrase “no pain equals no gain”, don’t worry. It’s not true. When exercise is painful, it’s also stressful. There are many forms of exercise that almost anyone can do such as walking, bicycling, swimming, cleaning house, gardening, dancing, yoga and more. Exercise has a beneficial effect on weight loss but also creates endorphins ( chemicals released in the brain naturally that can lessen pain and make you feel relaxed). It’s best to exercise at least 40 minutes a day every day. It need not all be done at the same time. You’ll feel better and find your attention more
2. Get adequate sleep: If possible, end off your work day at the same time each day, then wind down. After dinner is ideal, if you can do it. From the end- off time to your bedtime it should be as enjoyable and relaxing as possible. Take a walk, listen to music, read a good book, visit with friends, enjoy a hot shower or take a bath. (Epsom salts make a bath very relaxing). It can help to have a cut off time for the T.V and/or computer, as well.
3. Connect with or work to create a support system: Having friends and family who truly care about you can make life a whole lot less stressful. Going it alone can be very tough. So seek out those persons with whom you feel most comfortable, that make you feel good and are trusted. Even if there are few of these people it’s best to find more friends that fit the above criteria than to hook up with negative persons. When you have a negative person to whom you are connected you will have more stress. Do not continue a relationship with someone who brings you down. Always seek out the most positive people as your support network.
4. Decide to be a positive person: No matter how bad things are it can only help you to take a positive attitude. Try to see how you can use the problems as a way to come out better. Believe in yourself. If this does not seem possible, there are things you may have done or are still doing that have made you lose your self-respect. So decide to change. If you face up to your shortcomings, you can change for the better. This, like all changes, can be done by deciding to change a bad habit and doing it.
5. Improve your diet: If you are eating what most people are you are putting a lot of toxins in your body. They do not kill you right away, but over time they can result in diseases or conditions that you do not ever want to have. Make some major changes, one at a time. Switch from large amounts of acidic foods in the normal American diet to 20 %, and from almost no fresh fruits and vegetables to about 80% of your foods being fruits or vegetables and other alkalizing foods.
Stop eating processed foods. These have very little if any food value and have ingredients you would be disgusted by anyway if you knew their details. Because they have so little nutrition, these foods make you crave something more and eat more. Some of the additives are even addictive, like MSG, making you crave the very foods you should avoid.
Avoid all processed vegetable oils. They aren’t fit for cellular health. The way to a longer life in better health includes improving the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 oils toward what it was in ‘the old days’, before food processing. Real extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil and flax seed oil are healthful, also some fish and krill oils but check the quality. Ruthlessly cut out man-made oils that have been manipulated, heavily processed with chemicals and high heat which is very destructive to health. That includes canola oil, “vegetable oil”, cotton seed oil and corn oil.
Then switch over from a carbohydrate-based energy source to an oil- based source. Simple carbohydrates turn into sugar when eaten, even so-called healthy whole wheat. Eliminate simple carbohydrates, especially sugar and artificial sugar substitutes. Good oils as above in moderation will provide all the energy you need. Making the switch will not make you fat as long as you DO cut down/cut out the sugar sources!
The above points may seem contrary to all you’ve heard about diet, but you can research each one online, in libraries and even on television. And decide for yourself. If a food is being advertised, it would probably be wise to avoid it and find a local farmer’s market or health food store instead. Almost all of the modern diseases come from false data about foods drummed into the public from early childhood, often in advertisements. Americans are becoming more and more overweight from the foods we eat. Rates of degenerative diseases are increasing as well.
6. Drink a lot of distilled or purified water: In the future this will become harder and harder to do, so seek out a way to ensure you always have good water available. It used to come from your faucet, but that is no longer true. Dehydration is very common. If you are thirsty you are probably already dehydrated. So don’t wait until you feel thirsty. Dehydration causes body stress.
7. Be willing to love: Love is one of the most uplifting experiences there is, be it physical or otherwise. Love banishes stress. You can love family, children, a marital partner, a friend, pets, and groups both recreational and formal. Find somebody to love. Learn to love yourself. If you express love, you will be loved. Affection naturally elicits feeling from others. Developing relationships based on love and trust can help you to achieve greater happiness.
8. Resurrect your core spiritual beliefs: Each person is a spiritual being. Spiritual beliefs and values are important. They can bring stability into chaos. When you re-connect to your true beliefs you become stronger and more capable of handling life. And this reduces stress.
Does this Work?
Stress reduction can help you lose weight. It can also enable you to be a happier, more able person. Start with whatever is most real to you because each little win makes you stronger.
Once you have changed one habit, go on the next. This is not a sudden weight loss program. If you take the time and discipline to reduce stress and improve your diet you will not only be able to lose weight, but you’ll have the key to improving any other area of your life as well.