Yesterday, I wrote about an article I'm reading concerning weight plateaus while still dieting and exercising and why women reach those plateaus. Life happens! Part one was about post-pregnancy weight and how it sticks like glue because of our biology, our body make up. BUT, there is hope and there are ways to defeat these stubborn pounds during these plateaus (baby rolls included) with diet, exercise, and behavior.
Weight Plateau #2: Extreme Stress. This is an area I've had to manage for most of my life. I had to learn how to manage stress at an early age (12 or 13) and I was not always successful. I'm not sure I am that successful now, considering that a lot of articles I read about weight gain are due to stress and last time I looked in the mirror...I must be REALLY stressed! It's a fact that stress - a new job, a family crisis, or everyday hectic lifestyle - makes it hard to lose weight...especially those last 10 pounds. Even if you're nervous, or uptight, anxious and don't feel like eating very much - they won't go away! Christine Northrup, OB/GYN and author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom, explains that when you're stressed, your adrenal gland secretes the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite and also stimulates your body's release of the fat-storing hormone insulin. The result is that your body holds on to its fat stores as hard as it can, even if you're eating less than before. There you go....stubborn pounds! And I thought I was stubborn. And despite all my best efforts I may be sabotaging my weight loss attempts by unconsciously overeating - wolfing down everything on my plate. (gotcha! I've DONE that; eating really fast then going in for more) Stressed women are more likely to snack on comfort foods like chocolate and chips. Ms. Northrup says, "It's a form of self-medication, because those high-carb foods raise serotonin levels, the chemical in your brain that boosts mood." This is depressing...where's that raspberry cheesecake coffee creamer for my coffee??
What's a body to do?
1.Go for a walk. Exercise is exactly what I need when I feel stressed. (so they say) Research shows that people ages 20-45 with symptoms of mild to moderate stress-induced depression were reduced by almost 50% when they participated in 30-minute aerobic sessions 3-5 times/week. I'm exercising 4 times a week and I do feel more relaxed.
2.Sip green tea instead of java. Did you just curl up your nose like I did? Hmmm....I'm not much of a tea drinker, but (they say) green tea is better for you because it has less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee and even regular black tea. Green tea contains catechins, which may trigger weight loss by increasing the body's metabolism. A Japanese study found that people who drank a bottle of green tea daily lost 5.3 pounds after 3 months, while those who drank oolong tea only lost 2.9 pounds. So...does this green tea count as one of my 10 glasses of water I'm supposed to drink every day?
3.Say goodbye to salt. Salt raises blood pressure, which raises cortisol levels even more, which causes a cycle of overeating that I just want to get off of! The daily allowance for sodium should be around 2300mg/day. The calorie count website will analyze your food intake for the day (click on Analysis) and give you a reading of what your salt intake is along with carbs, fat, protein, etc.
4.Sit down and savor your meal. Oh I'm bad here too, but not on purpose. Throughout the day, I'm constantly feeding everybody else with breakfast, lunch, and snacks that I just eat (correction - inhale) my sandwich while tending to everybody else, never sitting down. And yet, another study found that when 6 women were asked to sit down and eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and stop when their food no longer tasted as good as when they took their first bite, they lost an average of 8 pounds!! The doctor conducting the study said that our bodies will 'intuitively know' how many calories you need and will dampen your taste buds once you've had enough. I'm sorry, I just have a hard time processing that. Really???
Bottom line: less stress means less likely to overeat. That adds up! I have learned that lack of sleep will add to the stress, which adds to the bad choices made during the day. I read about a woman who got extra sleep at night...going to bed earlier...and she lost weight. I don't remember how much she lost, but the extra sleep helped her to be more alert, more relaxed, had more natural energy, and she didn't 'feel hungry' as much. I know when I get a good night's rest I don't reach for the coffee as much as when I'm sleep deprived. I guess my body is hungry for sleep rather than being hungry for food. Instead of pushing caffeine in my body, I should take a nap or go to bed at a decent time. It will actually help shed the pounds. Also, keeping things in perspective and actually forcing myself to take 15 minutes just for me has really helped in the last few years with my stress levels. I certainly haven't arrived at a perfect Zen state - but I'm not stressing over it!