If you ate like a baby, you would probably not have a weight issue. Babies start life eating when they are hungry, and stop when they’re full. Nature has the perfect signal to keep you healthy, hydrated, and to maintain your stable weight. It’s called hunger, thirst, and feeling sleepy. When you pay attention to those signals, your weight should be of no issue to you. But something happens later in life to people who have developed a weight problem that disrupted this natural pattern.
For many women (in particular), dislike of their body because it doesn’t conform to the fashion of the day makes them start on that slippery slope called dieting. Your hunger and activity level is a very delicate balance like a sophisticated thermostat that can add either heat or cooling to a room to keep it at a near-steady temperature. But when you start jiggling around with the mechanism by removing certain foods (starches, sugar and salt, etc.), eating less and exercising more, the automatic thermostat stops functioning properly. You lose weight, and then you gain it back, PLUS additional punishment pounds.
Did unhappiness with your body start you dieting in the first place? Or was your natural thermostat damaged by a stressful event, or a continuing stressful time in your life?
We’ve been brainwashed to believe that the only way to lose weight is to ?eat less and exercise more. But if you’ve been on a diet, you’ve probably realized that this strategy doesn’t work, or at least it doesn’t work for long.
Many people claim that in order to lose weight you have to maintain a ?lifestyle change? of depriving yourself of food you enjoy and over-exercising. This might work until you injure yourself and have to stop your activity level, or can no longer resist by starving yourself.
If you’re like the majority of people, you can identify a particular stressful event that precipitated your weight gain. It can both suppress your metabolism, and lead to over-eating. There’s even a term for food you eat when you’re stressed: ?comfort food. The type of food doesn’t matter that much, it’s the fact that you are ‘stuffing? your emotions with food when your stomach isn’t telling you it’s hungry! So food becomes the drug of choice for many stressed-out people. It’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you!
Are you approaching the problem of overweight from the wrong perspective and trying to solve it with the wrong solution by dieting to lose weight? If stress is making you overweight in the first place, doesn’t it make more sense to deal with the cause? Some people are not even aware of the level of stress that is present in their mind/body, because it’s so habitual it’s become like a background of white noise.
Yes, being overweight and belly fat can be an indicator of stress, but make sure to look at your face. Do you have worry lines, or wrinkles around your eyes, or on your forehead that are an indication that you are holding an expression of anxiety on your face? The ?Facial Feedback Hypothesis? theory first written about by Charles Darwin shows that even changing the muscles in your face by smiling will change your thoughts and emotions. Preliminary studies have indicated that paralyzing these facial muscles with Botox can actually have an effect on depression and stress. While using Botox is treating symptoms instead of the cause, it also points to the efficacy of changing your body to affect your mind and emotions.
The Mind/Emotion/Body are an interdependent system.
In the past, it was assumed that the Autonomic Nervous System worked independently of your conscious thoughts/emotions. It is now clear that your thoughts and emotions can change your physiology. It’s been estimated that over 95% of diseases are caused by or exacerbated by stress. The Nocebo Effect is created by negative emotions and beliefs, and is the opposite of the more well known Placebo effect. Perhaps your negative self-image is having a Nocebo Effect on your weight!
Stress in the body can be detected by observing the pattern of your heart beat. An organized beat to beat change called ?entrainment? of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a marker of calm in the heart, that then informs the body to follow the peaceful pattern of the heart. There are biofeedback types of devices available that you can use to observe and learn to organize and calm your Heart Rate Variability. You can learn from these devices to change HRV by focusing the mind on the heart and feeling gratitude or positive emotions. This well-researched technique is one of the most successful stress relief techniques that also builds resilience to stress.
Stress relief is not just a woo-woo activity that you ‘should? do to make yourself calm. It’s a necessity that can change every aspect of your health. However, if you are attempting stress relief, it means that you are already experiencing stress. You can prevent stress by changing your attitude and mindset. Then you subdue the intensity of your reaction to improve your health and control your weight at the same time.
What’s the best stress reliever? The one you will do frequently is best. Using ?re-feeding? as a mindful activity lets the body know the starvation is over, and is also a very effective practice. That way, you’re getting a double benefit of nurturing your body and your mind at the same time. That’s the perfect Mind/Body stress relief approach to improve your health and weight.
Lianda Ludwig, M.S., is now offering free 30-minute’stress-releasing consultations through the 180DegreeHealth Get Help program.