Today was kind of a stressful day. I had a few money issues to deal with after work, and I could feel my stress levels rising. Really, it was no big deal – just a few minor things that needed taking care of… but when you throw an anxiety disorder into the mix, a minor thing can quickly trigger an anxiety attack. And for me, that means eating, because I use food to soothe my anxiety.
I know that stress causes weight gain. There are a lot of studies out there that indicate that when you are stressed, your body releases cortisol to deal with the stress. This chemical helps regulate how your body releases and stores fat. Did you know that increased cortisol levels can lead to increased cravings for sweet and fatty foods? (C’mon – who hasn’t eaten a chocolate bar when stressed?!? ) Here’s a really informative article about the effects of stress on weight gain:
So there I was, renewing my car insurance and trying to deal with some banking stuff. At the best of times this is a minor annoyance, but with everything else that’s been going on in my life, it brought on a wee bit of anxiety. Granted, not a full-blown anxiety attack, but enough for me to notice physical symptoms. Shallow breathing, increased heart rate, difficulty focusing, that sort of stuff. Once again, I proudly drove right past Starbucks, Tim Hortons and a dozen other yummy places, and focused on what I could do once I got home. (My word, 152nd Street in Surrey has a lot of places to eat!)
I knew that if I didn’t make a plan, I would come home and eat anything and everything in site. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I couldn’t trust myself to go to the grocery store to pick up something healthy, as I just wasn’t in that mind set. I knew I had some leftover spaghetti and meat sauce in the fridge. Not the healthiest thing in the world to eat, but I figured it beat binge eating when I was feeling anxious.
As soon as I got home, I warmed up the leftovers and sat down to eat. I’m trying to be more mindful and aware of my food consumption, so I kept the TV and computer off (and my phone as well… always a major distraction for me). While I was eating, I began thinking about the connection between stress and weight gain. I realized that the high-carb meal before me was probably going to be converted directly into fat cells. Oh well. At least I didn’t binge.
This got me to thinking: maybe I shouldn’t eat when I’m stressed. If there are chemical reactions occurring in my body when I’m stressed, and these chemicals promote fat build-up, perhaps I should find another way to deal with stress.
The only thing I can think of is exercise and meditation. I really need to add more cardio to my week. I’m good with the 5am yoga (although lately, I haven’t been focusing as much – I’ve been going through the motions, but not with real intent). A cardio workout increases levels of all of those “feel good” chemicals, which probably do a good job counteracting the stress-induced cortisol.
I’m really really good at making excuses when it comes to cardio. “I’m too busy tonight,” “The kids have something on the go,” “I’m too tired” and so forth. This has to stop. I am never going to be “Fit by 40” if I don’t exercise. 5am yoga just ain’t enough. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking “Ah, just wait until summer break. You’ll have two months off, you can exercise then.”
Yeh. Nope. Just another excuse. Doesn’t cut it. No good.
If I truly want to be fit before my 40th birthday (just, gasp, 54 short weeks away), I need to change my habits, change my mindset. My ex-husband was always fond of saying that, “it takes 21 days to create a new habit.” (Funny thing is, he’d start something new, and quit within 14 or 15 days! I don’t remember him ever making it to that 21 day mark.)
I need new habits. How can I make cardiovascular exercise part of my daily routine? A workout partner comes to mind, but it seems that all of my friends are either too busy, or a lot more fit than I am… there’s no way I could keep up with some of my fit friends.
The other habit I need to establish is regular meditation. I need to deal with stress and anxiety in healthier ways. I need to find a way of truly understanding that I am in control of my life and my health, and it’s not controlled by stress and anxiety.
If anyone has any suggestions, ideas, or things that have worked for them, please share them in the comment section. I know that there are other people who read this blog who are going through similar issues as I am, and it would be a great help!