Let me say that again: Stressing about our body fat just makes us fatter. It’s true; and as woo-woo as that may sound, it’s very grounded in science.
Remember in my last Post I said that when it comes to weight and our health, our thoughts are more important than a food plan? If a good food plan was all it took, no one would be fat and sick.
One of my favorite quotes is: “Our body isn’t a math equation, it’s a chemistry set.” This is why low calorie, low fat diets don’t work in the long run. We upset our chemistry when we eat that way.
I’m continuing my series on taking control of our thoughts to get control of our body. Many of us constantly bemoan our butts, our stomach’s, our thighs, and our batwings. Constantly.
How’s that negative thinking working?
A favorite quote, “What we think about, we bring about.” More science, more chemistry; our brain LISTENS to our words and creates chemicals and structures in response to those words. Seriously.
Constantly bemoaning our weight and our shape and our health is called STRESS. “Stress” is a chemical state in our body that’s really only good if we need to run away from a bad guy or perform a heroic feat. Other than that, it works against us. (Actually, there’s more to the stress story. “Temporary” stress can help us solve problems and get out of jams. It’s “Chronic” stress that hurts us – and makes us fat.)
A stressed-out state, for ANY reason (mental, physical, emotional, REAL OR FAKE), causes the same chemical response: an increase in hormones that dump lots of SUGAR into the blood stream. Nothing is easier and faster for our cells to use in an emergency than sugar. Not fat, not protein, but SUGAR.
When we feel stressed from a kid or a spouse or a co-worker or traffic or from agonizing over our weight or stressing about food or exercise, our glands squirt FIGHT AND FLIGHT HORMONES (chemicals) into our blood stream.
These hormones do a number on us:
– they inhibit fat burning in cells (never good for healthy body weight!)
– they dump loads of sugar/glucose from the liver into the blood
– they break down muscle tissue to convert to glucose (fitness friends, take note – we want that muscle!)
– they make us hungry and crave more sugar – just in case the stress is chronic (“stress eating”)
– they slow down the thyroid (not a priority), slow down digestion (not a priority), slow down sex hormone production (not a priority)
– they suppress the immune system (not a priority, and this is why stress is associated with being sick more often)
And that’s just the starter list! The gist: Stress Makes Us Fat and Sick, not lean and healthy.
I know I already said this, but I’m saying it again: stressing over our weight or our food or our workouts is EXACTLY the same as stressing over a bad guy or money or a fight. Stress is stress is stress is stress. The same chemicals are released into the body.
Action Plan to Combat Stressing About Our Fat:
1) Quit comparing ourselves to any woman on a magazine cover. I quit buying women’s magazines 15 years ago. I didn’t want my 4 daughters influenced by those faked and unrealistic images. Woo-hoo! FREEDOM. Seriously, have you ever googled what they do to those cover images to make them look so perfect?
Having those images around is like having our favorite trigger food in the pantry. Bad stuff happens. Set yourself up for success and control your surroundings as much as possible.
Temptations CAUSE stress. Get rid of them.
2) Quit comparing ourselves to anyone at the gym, or in our circles, who has a better body than us. STOP IT. What a waste of a brain space! And it’s stressful! We have friends and family who need our help and our prayers. We have a home and jobs and people who need our attention. There’s turmoil and starvation and war going on, and we’re stressing about our butt and our weight? Let’s focus on important issues.
The Bible says to focus on Love, Joy, Appreciation, and Gratitude. Meditation books say the same thing. What we focus on has a CHEMICAL CONSEQUENCE. (Hey! Food also has chemical consequences!)
3) DEEP BREATHING. Humming. Singing. Breath Patterns. Yep, really. For weight loss! These actions stimulate our Vagus Nerve, the nerve that runs from the brain stem to every organ in our body. When we stimulate it with deep breath, humming, and singing, it releases Happy Chemicals.
This is the polar opposite of our Fight and Flight/Sympathetic nervous system, which is the system that releases cortisol, adrenalin, and more.
The Vagus Nerve releases chemicals that actually benefit our DNA, and make our brain more creative, problem solving, and powerful. Fight/flight chemicals (chronically produced) damage our DNA and inhibit problem solving and creativeness.
Fight/fight chemicals also deplete our willpower.
The Vagus Nerve meanders all the way into the belly; spreading fibers to the tongue, pharynx, vocal chords, lungs, heart, stomach, intestines and glands that produce the anti-stress enzymes and hormones: Acetylcholine, Prolactin, Vasopressin, and Oxytocin. These chemicals make digestion, metabolism and relaxation BETTER.
They even make us poop better!
4) Gratitude, appreciation, love for your body. Yes, you need these for weight loss. Honestly, even a year ago, I wouldn’t have written that. I’ve read this, been taught this, for years, but it never sunk in. I’m wired pretty happy, so I never thought I needed this advice. I was wrong. We all need this advice.
Again, stressing over our body, picking apart it’s “defects”, is just “stress”. Stress is a chemical state that inhibits fat loss, and encourages fat deposition.
I really believe this explains the strict diet and exercisers, who are just doing it for weight loss – not health, who never seem to lose weight.
When we eat for health, our thought patterns are something like this: “I haven’t had any fish in a few days and I really need that Omega 3.” Or, “My throat hurts, I need some garlic.” Or, “If I eat that, I’ll have bloat and foggy brain the rest of the day. Better stay away.” Eating for health means looking at food as Medicine, and it’s empowering!
Counting calories, measuring, white-knuckling up some willpower – NOT empowering. At all. It’s draining.
Try this: next time negative beliefs about your body consume your thoughts, stop them, and replace them with 5 different gratitudes about your body.
If you have difficulty thinking of 5 gratitudes, you’ve got a bigger problem than your weight!
Resource for improving your mind: Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyers.
Learn more about the Vagus Nerve here.
Reinforce Food is Medicine here.
Go think about what you’re thinking about!