When we talk about weight loss it makes more sense to not just focus on calories but also to look at stress. Looking at calories answers the question: Why am I gaining weight now? While the focus on stress provides answer to the question: Why am I not able to keep the weight I lost off? It is well known that stress and weight are intimately linked. But yet most discussions on weight loss pay lip service to stress and instead just focus on food and calories.
When we view weight from the point of view of stress we get a new picture. We now see weight as a symptom of an out-of-balance life-style with too much stress. Fixing stress helps fix the weight issue for the long haul. Here are a few things that jump out when we look at weight loss from the point of view of stress:
Can it get any easier? All you need to do to shed those extra pounds is sleep! If you get 6 hours or less of sleep then you need to pay attention to this. If you already sleep between 7-10 hours then you are fine. (And if you sleep more than 10 hours then you may need to cut back.) One indicator that you are sleep deprived is if you find yourself nodding off during the day.
2. Walk if cannot run
Running is a great way to keep fit and relax. But if you cannot run then just walk. The key to understand the new paradigm of stress is not to view any activity from the point of view of calories but instead view it from the lens of relaxation. Walk to relax and refresh. Take a leisurely walk. There is no need for power walking. It may be better to go for a walk few days a week consistently for many years, than to attempt to run for a few days and then give up.
3. Turn off excessive stimulation
Over stimulation creates stress. Our bodies can take only that much. Excessive stimulation can turn into toxic stress that then translates to excess weight. Turn down music, cut back on horror and action drama, play fewer war games, turn down the lights, cut out bleeping phones, and find ways to disengage and relax a few hours every day.
4. Take a relaxing vacation
Stress can be addictive. So when our stress levels go down we find new ways to add it back into our lives. Even vacations can turn into stress-filled activities when we try and pack a million things into them. Find ways to take time off when you do nothing but relax and disengage.
5. Get massages
A massage is a truly relaxing activity. Put this into your budget and make it a point to get it on a regular basis.
6. Do yoga and Pranayama
The point of yoga should be to relax and de-stress. If you can do vigorous yoga and also find relaxation then it is fine. But otherwise do gentle yoga that rejuvenates and relaxes you. It is okay if you are not burning calories while doing yoga. In addition to yoga, learn to practice Pranayama that elongates your breath. 10-15 minutes of Pranayama breathing exercises that elongate breath can be a wonderful way to relax and center yourself.
20 minutes of meditation can be a truly reinvigorating activity. Just promise to give yourself these 20 minutes everyday and see how this transforms you. Make this part of your routine. Maybe you do this first thing every morning. Meditation in the morning is ideal. But if this is not possible find any other time slot and meditate regularly.
8. Get a pet dog
One of the best de-stressor is a pet dog. But be sure that this does not add new stress to your life. You must take charge of your pet and train it well so that it obeys you. Get professional help if needed. The pet must sleep in its own room and not in your bedroom. Do not get 10 dogs. Just one is enough.
9. Do not go hungry
Hunger is a stressor. So you must find ways to control your hunger while you control your food intake. When we are stressed out, we tend to overeat. But going hungry adds to stress and makes the problem worse. So what is the solution? Ideally the things mentioned in this article should help reduce stress and this should help control hunger. But in the mean time make sure that you do not keep high-sugar, high-fat foods within reach at home or work. Plan to munch on fruits or low calorie foods if you have to. Stay away from sugared juices and beverages too. Instead you may try sipping warm water during the day to keep hunger at bay.
10. How you eat may be more important than what you eat
Do not eat in a hurried and frantic way. Do not eat while working, driving, or watching TV. Do not eat while walking or doing any other activity. Eat when you are seated comfortably. When you eat you must focus on this activity and nothing else. When you focus on the taste and smell of your food you will eat less. Focus on chewing the food slowly and taking the next bite only when you have swallowed the first bite.
This new paradigm of viewing weight loss from the point of view of stress will help you keep the weight off for the long haul. First take control of stress and only then address the question of controlling calories. If you first take care of centering, balancing, and relaxing, you will find control of your life come back to you. When this happens the weight will come off and stay off.