Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The crucial link between stress and overeating

In my career as a consulting hypnotist, stress control and weight management are two of the biggest issues that I help people with. This detailed article on msn.com illustrates the critical relationship between the two issues.

So why exactly does stress make you stuff yourself silly? Your body and mind react to all stress the same way, regardless of whether the stress is physical or mental. If you're having a stressful day at the office for instance, your brain perceives that to be equivalent to being chased by tigers through the jungles of Southeast Asia all afternoon (more or less). And it instructs your body to release hormones like adrenaline, which activates the age-old "flight or fight" response (or is it "fight or flight" ?), and cortisol, whose job it is to get your body to immediately replace those calories you either just used up as you deftly escaped those tigers by taking to the trees, or DIDN'T use up as you sat in your office getting a horrible annual evaluation from your slave-driver boss. So, you see, regardless of the stressful situation, you get very, very hungry. And you stay hungry as the cortisol continues to flow through you.

If you were indeed in the jungles of Southeast Asia, you'd reach for some delicious and healthy wild edibles (or tiger meat, depending on the outcome of the encounter) and replenish your calories that way. But for most cube-dwelling Americans, the easiest option inevitably turns out to be those delicious-looking danishes perched precariously in the coils of the cafeteria vending machine, waiting to be gently dislodged with a few quarters and an easy press of "A6" on the keypad. The euphoria-inducing effects of these sugary "foods" allows them to quickly become associated with tension-reduction in our own minds. So we reach for them every time something feels wrong, and they become our comfort food. And that, of course, is very, very bad if you're trying to stay healthy.

The article suggests 7 healthy ways to reduce stress and keep your weight under control.

1) Do some quick exercise when you feel stressed. This helps to flush the cortisol out of your system, curtailing hunger while relieving your stress.

2) Eat slowly. No inhaling! Slowing down and being more aware of getting full decreases the portion size you consume before feeling satisfied, and also lowers cortisol levels.

3) Don't be so strict when it comes to dieting. Strict dieting causes a drop in blood sugar, which the body perceives as stressful. This causes that mean and nasty cortisol to rise again, making you ravenous, and your self-control goes out the window. Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals so that your blood sugar stays even throughout the day. I always suggest to my clients that all their meals must contain portions of carbs, protein, fat and fiber.

4) You'll appreciate this one: Give in once in a while. It's okay to have a small sweet snack to stop your cortisol production, than to risk having it get out of control. But you must know when to stop. Take precautions to prevent yourself from eating the whole bag of cookies.

5) No mo' joe. If you insist on coffee, make it decaf. Stress + caffeine = more cortisol production. And that results in the dreaded stress-eating response.

6) Eat a breakfast that's high in nutrients like Vitamin B and C, calcium, and magnesium. Deficiencies in these nutrients leads to cortisol production and food cravings. Try some citrus fruit or juice, some yogurt, and something bready like toast or a bagel.

7) Get enough shut-eye. The body perceives loss of sleep as a major source of stress, which results in increased appetite and weight gain. So be sure to get your 7-9 hours on the Serta.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Physical activity is 90% mental. Even Michael Phelps knows that.

How do you get good at a sport? Practice, practice, practice. That's what they always say, right? But practice is more than just physical. What makes a great athlete great? He/she integrates mind, body, and spirit, elevating his/her own level of consciousness above and beyond that of the next guy. Extraordinary athletes spend as much time, if not more, in mental preparation -through visualization, relaxation, and meditation - as they do in physical training. This online article has good advice for incorporating visualization, Qi Gong, breathing, and meditation into your training routine.

And it evens dares to mention Michael Phelps, the most annoyingly overmentioned athlete in history. Because he's so perfect, and excellent, and astounding, and blah blah blah.

Don't forget the old standy...Sleep! You and I, and even flies, need it.

You won't find anyone more eager than me to extoll the virtues of establishing a deliberate practice of mental and emotional relaxation in some form. 20 minutes a day is all it takes. But even though we engage in mental rest on a conscious level, let's not forget the age-old standby, the thing we all were born to do and can't live without, the UNconscious kind of rest: Sleep!

Scientists (with actual PhDs) have now recognized what we knew all along - that sleep is essential for memory and learning. This article in WebMD news explains how sleep influences the chemistry of the brain, paving the way for new learning, by strengthening some synapses and destroying others.

Different stages of sleep are important for different types of learning. While napping or meditating may help strenghthen memorization, it appears that deeper sleep is needed for learning new skills and processing complex information.

So before you decide to meditate the night away, know that while that may help you remember your wedding anniversary, it may not be the best course of action if you are trying to master the intricacies of Irish tap dancing.

The article mentions that even flies need sleep to learn! And flies need more sleep after social interation. Social interaction??? It was not mentioned what kind of social interaction these flies were engaged in, but after a day of swarming over a rotten banana peel with my friends, I'd imagine that I would appreciate a good night's slumber... before getting up in the morning for another day of swarming over a rotten banana peel.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Island Voyage

Meditation Getaways - Island Voyage -

We start by relaxing on a tropical beach created entirely in the imagination, paying attention to the various sights, sounds, and textures around us. We spot a giant piece of driftwood from an ancient tree further down the beach, and we walk over to investigate. We climb on the driftwood log to sit a while, but then the tide comes in and soon the log begins to drift away. Our sense of adventure kicks in, as we decide to hang on for the ride! The driftwood log becomes our raft, as it takes us out to sea and to an offshore island. Not a meditation for those who get seasick!

This guided meditation features the Moodstreams soundtrack "SoCal Beach" as background sound.