Have you ever wished you could skip December and the holidays? Well, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by Think Finance, 45% of Americans would rather avoid the holiday season than endure the emotional, physical and monetary stress it delivers. For many of us holiday shopping, rich food, alcohol, less sleep, end of the year deadlines and looming January bills make December a difficult, stressful month physically and emotionally.
Stress, a reaction to stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental balance, is a ubiquitous part of life. Our bodies are designed to deal with the acute stressors prevalent in cavewomen days – like running from a saber tooth tiger. However, we’re not genetically equipped to deal with the chronic, modern stress so prevalent this time of year. All that tension has a negative impact on your health… especially your waistline. Stress increases appetite and fat storage particularly around the middle while reducing willpower and metabolism.
A study published in the scientific journal Biological Psychiatry found that compared to women who were stress-free, women who experienced at least one stressful event (we’re talking everyday hassles like standing in line to buy a Christmas sweater for Aunt Martha) burned 104 fewer calories in the seven hours after eating a high-fat meal. Over a year, that metabolism dip can add up to almost 11 pounds! Stress makes you fat, that’s a fact.
Additional research has found that stress may reduce the benefits of healthy eating. Women who reported high levels of stress had similar levels of inflammation on the day they ate a healthy meal low in saturated fat and on the day they ate an unhealthy meal high in saturated fat. In contrast, women who reported low levels of stress had lower levels of inflammation on the day they ate the healthier meal.
Fortunately you can take control of your stress before it has a chance to ruin your figure, health and holidays. Here’s how:
Stress sends blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride. To regain balance, include a source of protein at each meal. Stay hydrated and eat plenty of fiber and fruits and veggies, especially dark leafy greens, which will decrease your cravings for holiday treats and help to detoxify your body. And avoid too much caffeine, sugar and alcohol, all of which can induce stress.
For ideas on how to tame holiday temptation click HERE.
I know you’re really busy, but getting 30 minutes of exercise a day will reduce stress and prevent holiday weight gain. This doesn’t mean killing yourself at the gym. Just build simple, easy, non-stressful exercise into your day. Take a walk at lunch. (Getting outside and enjoying nature can really help lower your stress level.) Use the stairs instead of the elevator, and park your car further away from the mall entrance. Play music and dance around your living room. Instead of meeting friends for drinks and dinner go on a group hike… then enjoy some holiday cheer.
Most adults need 7-8 hours per night. Unfortunately, 40% of Americans get less than the recommended amount. Getting enough sleep is vital for combatting stress, and it’s also helpful for weight loss. Research shows people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more (about 6% more calories) especially carbohydrates.
Your body is like a clock and craves consistency. To maximize the benefits of sleep you should try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day and keep your room cool and dark. Developing a regular sleep ritual will go a long way in helping to reduce stress and weight. It’s a very simple, yet effective, health booster.
Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. —Thomas Dekker
Find a few activities that you enjoy and do them. Go for a walk or a run. Meditate, take a long bath, do yoga or get a massage. Listen to relaxing music. Spend time with a pet. Hug someone (Physical touch reduces stress and generates the soothing brain chemical oxytocin.) or have sex. Sex can lower blood pressure and generate cell growth in the hippocampus the part of the brain that controls stress. Plus… it feels good, and we can all use a little of that during the holiday stress season.
Let go of the need to be perfect. Focus on treating yourself the way you would a good friend — kindly without judgment or criticism. When you feel stressed, ask yourself: What do I need right now? and then give your body, mind, heart or spirit what it needs so that you can thrive during the holidays rather than simply survive.
You don’t have to work on your wellness journey alone. Contact me HERE to set up a complimentary, no obligation consultation and get the psychological support, nutrition counseling and wellness coaching you need to feel amazing in 2017.