Raise your hand if you gained a few this quarantine season 🙋
#realtalk though. Our bodies are incredible machines. It does everything in its power to keep us safe. Including weight gain!
I know what you're thinking. "Say whaaaat? My body is putting on weight to PROTECT me?!?!"
Let me break it down.
Stress is any perceived threat to the body (key word here is perceived!!!). Our adrenal glands are neuroendocrine tissue that secretes hormones to allow the body to cope with stress. Cortisol, in particular is secreted during times of long-term stress. This is the hormone that causes us to crave sugary foods and caffeine. It's the hormone that tells our body to store more fat to protect our internal organs from damage. Interestingly enough, this same hormone is secreted when our blood sugar is low!
Now, evolutionarily speaking, this adaptation made perfect. Our long-term stress of the past had been things like famine (not to say this isn't still a problem in many areas of the world), and freezing to death. So putting on weight to protect yourself from literal death made sense.
Here's the kicker - even though many of us are not worried about food security, or risking freezing to death, our bodies still respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.
Enter THE VIRUS. Where everyone is worrying about SOMETHING. Whether you are worried about financial security, the health of your family, or when the next time you'll be able to rock out at your favourite concert, society is in a constant state of worry. And what is your body going to do to protect you from all of these perceived stressors? Put on some weight. Okay so. Our bodies put on weight to protect us from stress. Cute.
Address the Stress!
Seems like a reasonable first step, right? But you'd be surprised how many people don't realize the stress the may be carrying. Take a moment here to check in with your body. Are you clenching your jaw? Are your shoulders locked up by your ears? Are you shallow breathing? Furrowing your brow? Now reflect on your eating habits: have you been reaching for starchy foods more often? Increased your coffee intake? Comfort foods galore? Reflecting on these things will help you to better understand your stress and where it lands in your body.
Practice Mindfulness. Ya'll know I preach mindfulness like it's my day job (I mean... I guess it kind of is?). But seriously! Taking time to stay present can be incredibly powerful when navigating times of fear and stress. If you find yourself getting caught up in the thought spirals, see if you can recognizing when it is happening. Then, shift the narrative. Remind yourself that in this moment, you are safe. Some of my favourite affirmations to shift away from negative spiraling include: "I am here, and I am safe"
"I am supported" "I am loved, and protected" Super simple. Highly effective. If you need support in cultivating a mindfulness practice, connect with me here for 1-on-1 support on guided meditation & mindfulness.
Eat more fat!
This one may seem counter intuitive, so bear with me. It's time for a lil lesson in nutrition. Our bodies need fat. Each cell is wrapped in a "phospholipid bilayer" - aka a fancy name for fatty membrane. Our steroid hormones, like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and more are also made from fat. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) like Omega-3, are needed to make anti-inflammatory molecules called prostaglandins, that regulate our stress response. EFAs do not get stored in the body, but rather are utilized in cell membranes, as well as used in a several metabolic actions, including red blood cell production, and cellular oxygen transfer. Some of my favourite sources of EFAs include: flaxseed, hemp hearts, ghee, walnuts, broccoli, salmon, and other cold water fish. Now, EFA's aren't the only fats you should consume more of. Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, coconut oil, olives, nuts, and seeds, are also helpful managing stress. Since fats have more than twice the caloric value than carbs or protein, consuming fats with every meal helps to maintain blood sugar levels, keeping you feeling satisfied for longer, and avoiding the crash and secretion of more cortisol.
Eat more fiber! Make dietary fiber your new best friend. Fiber slows the digestion of carbs, reducing blood sugar spikes and drops. Fiber bulks up the stool, and helps to maintain bowel regularity. If you find yourself reaching for comfort foods (don't worry, I'm doing it too!), aim to enjoy the higher fiber option, like quinoa / chickpea based pasta, or sprouted whole grain breads. How do I ensure adequate fiber intake? I eat plants. A lot of them. Vegetables at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I also sprinkle ground flaxseed on ERRRRRTHANG. Seriously, add that sh*t to your smoothies, pastas, oatmeal, salads, yogurt, stir fry, soups... you name it, I'm probably putting flax on it.
If you need support to find ways to incorporate more fat and fiber into your diet, connect with me for free here, and we can craft a customized menu plan that is both nutritious, AND delicious.
Move your body. But not in a way that is going to stress you out. The idea here is to take movement that feels good. For some, that might mean ripping a spicy HIIT workout every damn day. Cool! For others it might be a walk outside. Also cool. Maybe your thing is a pants-off dance-off with your boo in the living room. Amazing. Tune in with your body, and ask yourself what movement would feel really good, and do that! Every time we move our bodies in a way that feels great, we move our lymph (essentially your body's waste management system), helping to remove metabolic waste. We release beneficial endorphins that improve our mood. We keep mobility in our joints. We release stored emotions. We get grounded. It's like we give our bodies a chance to press a reset button in our days.
Get rid of the guilt!
It's true that "healthy foods" support a healthy body. And yes, it is also true that "unhealthy" or foods that are "bad" for us can be damaging to our health. But you know what can hurt even more? Piling on the guilt when you just want to enjoy a cookie. Or french fries. Or chips. Or chocolate. We are in a constant state of communicating with our bodies, at a conscious and subconscious level. What kind of messages are we sending to our bodies when we shame and guilt ourselves for wanting to enjoy foods that make us happy? How do you think our bodies will then respond to said food? Girl, if you want to eat the cookie, eat the damn cookie. Instead of creating a sh*tstorm in your mind about how you're eating habits are now derailed, and you're the worst for even THINKING about eating the cookie... just eat it. Enjoy it (like reaaallllyyy enjoy it). And move on! Remind yourself that it's okay to indulge, and get back to living your best life (cookies included).
Be kind to yourself. Remember that the world is in crisis mode, and our bodies will respond in different ways. Like I said, our bodies are adaptive machines that are always evolving, changing, and growing in ways we cannot even begin to fathom! So give yourself some grace. Love on your curves. Remind yourself that your body is just a body, and is doing what it knows best to protect you.