Archive for the 'Food & Weight' Category

Stress Management (assignment 22): Cooking Away the Stress

So, thus far the posts concerning food are usually correlated with weight as well, such as “eat the stress away.” Although the use of food can be a great coping mechanism for stress, it can also lead to some pretty serious health problems such as high cholesterol levels and unhealthy weight gains. So, I have come up with a much better way to enjoy the benefits of eating to relieve stress… get rid of the stress before you eat… to do so,  prepare the meal! This is a stress management technique that I like to use when I have a kitchen available and some good company.

Rather than going out to a restaurant  or grabbing some fast food when you have a craving, try slowing things down a little bit. Think about something you would really enjoy eating (the options aren’t limited to what’s on the menu!), then take a trip to the store and get anything you will need to make the dish.

Once you have the necessary ingredients, the best part begins… the creation. Preparing the food can be quite therapeutic in that you get to chop, slice, dice and stir… and if you are really stressed, maybe pick a meal for which you will have to do some tenderizing; that can be quite relieving as well.

Now that food is prepped, you get to turn up the heat and throw your meal into some heat. Now you will be enveloped by the magnificent scents created by your own hands, rather than the unknown chef at the restaurant. How satisfying is that!

Finally, with the food prepped and ready, sit down and enjoy it in good company. Meal time provides a great environment for casual discussion and time to let go of what is bothering you.

I was able to find a great article on the subject here.

I also find it quite enjoyable to watch the food network and other food shows to get some ideas for the next meal.

This stress management technique is effective in combating stress because it is something that you have control over what you are doing. Everything will be done the way you want it to be, and it also provides a number of different outlets. A trip to the store could physically remove you from the are of stressor, as well as provide some social support if you are cooking for more than yourself. One could also that cooking could give you some exercise. Certainly walking aroudn a grocery store (if you know them like I do, poorly) will give you some exercise, but even food prep can give you some exercise if you need to stir together ingredients or chop a lot of vegetables. Time in the kitchen could also give you some time to meditate. All of the mentioned outlets are said by Sapolsky to help lower stress levels.


Stress, A Result of Stress

It is safe to say that media and a patriarchal society are in part responsible for the low self-image of women. I would like to add that it is more than likely that men feel pressure from standards of society as well. Women feel the need to be physically flawless, through the eyes of everyone but themselves. The ideal woman is supposedly sexy, well-rounded, skinny, and with porcelain skin. She is kind to everyone, great at cooking, and will be a trophy wife. But why is the media allowed to decide what defines a woman as perfect?  It is difficult to picture a society where media has little influence over our norms and our self-esteem. For those women who are curvy, have acne, and have any dreams to be anything but a stay-at-home/make more than 80% of what men make, life can be extremely stressful. For example, women who are healthy but are unhappy with their weight may become anorexic or bulimic. The psychological stress of society who tells them to be skinny is far too much to handle and women take extraordinary measures to look “perfect”. Meanwhile, they are bingeing and purging, which is bad for teeth and the esophagus, among many other things. Their bones become weak and very frail. Those who choose (if you can call it a choice) to omit food all together have rapid muscle loss.  But, why is it that a woman sees herself as fat when she sees her best friend, who is heavier than she is, as beautiful and healthy? The media portrays unrealistic goals of women and people are their own worst critics. The psychological stress that we get from striving to be “perfect” may lead to physical stressors when unhealthy measures are taken.

Feeling Blue?

I was wondering how many of you are feeling homesick at this time? I know I am very homesick right about now, the time between just coming back from being home on spring break and almost nearing the end of the semester. I know that eating comfort foods can reduce stress, but you can’t eat forever! I am trying to deal with this stress by being connected with home, calling regularly, looking at pictures, sending emails etc. But it just seems that nothing I do is easing the desire to be reunited with my family again, I miss them so much! So, of course I have been turning to the comfort foods, which have been providing temporary relief.. WHILE I am packing on the pounds! What to do, what to do! A number of my friends have stated that they often go through the same issue of turning to comfort foods to relieve stress, but then in turn gaining weight, and being even more stressed about the weight gain- in addition to the previous stressor – NOT GOOD! So, I did a little research and stumbled on this article about How Not to Eat Your Feelings. I am sure many will find this helpful, I know I have!

Eat the stress away

Whenever I become extremely stressed out I have a strong craving for chocolate. I didn’t know if this craving was normal while under stress so I decided to do some research. I found a lot of information explaining that chocolate is really good to eat to reduce stress. You’d think that eating chocolate would make everything worse but studies have shown that eating dark chocolate when you’re stressed can help lower stress hormones. Research showed that eating one dark chocolate candy bar for two weeks reduced stress cortisol levels just as well as the fight or flight hormones also known as catechlamines.

We Are What We Eat

So we spent a lot of time discussing digestive disorders and how stress can affect the way our bodies process food. We have even talked about why we get such interesting cravings during times of stress. But what about how what we eat can influence how stressed we feel? Some studies suggest that foods containing high levels of B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and folic acid can actually reduce stress, not to mention provide the body with other healthy benefits. Magnesium can have tranquilizing effects that include relaxing muscles and the gastrointestinal tract, in addition magnesium can also play a role in boosting seratonin, helping you relax. B vitamins including B6 and B12 may also play a role in boosting seratonin while Vitamin C provides a healty boost to the immune system. Folic acid has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Some of the super foods containing these vitamins and minerals include fish, blueberries, cantaloupe, yogurt, almonds, broccoli and bananas (the link contains a much more extensive list). So next time you are feeling really stressed think about snacking on one of these super foods, it might just help.

A Vicious Circle or the Perfect Intricate Link?

We worry a lot about our weight. The way people look today is one of the most important things for our first impressions. It can make a difference about whether or not you get that job or if the cute guy you are eyeing will come and talk to you. As such, there are weight loss plans and fads everywhere. Commercials come on every few minutes and happy skinny people cover the ad images online. Fads go on and on and change as new studies reveal better and faster ways to lose weight. Now, where everyone knew about the Special K Diet, we now have the Acai Berry Diet. However, what is most important and effective is simply eating healthy and getting a lot of sleep. We have learned now that as we stress all the time, overall, most people put on weight due to various reasons, extra eating, stress inhibition of proper digestion, and less activity. Nevertheless, we now know that sleep helps us lose weight too. As we have just learned, sleep helps your body rejuvenate and make its systems more efficient by allowing them time to rest and restore themselves. So, not only will you better digest the food you eat so it can be used as energy instead of fat, you will be more energetic throughout your day which will naturally burn fat as you move around. Instead of sitting around, you will get bored and want to go outside in the now warming weather and just go do something. Whether it means simply going outside to sunbathe, you will be laughing more and hanging out with your friends, burning calories all the way and being healthier.  So do we really need to be stringent on everything we eat? While moderation helps, being healthier comes not only from dieting, but also from better health overall. So, the next time you decide to stay up late just because you don’t feel like going to sleep just yet, remember, you won’t only feel better the next morning, you’ll be healthier at the same time.

Frequent Intermittent Stressors

With spring break right around the corner (a class away from it for me) thinking about stress makes me realize how frequent intermittent stressors are part of my daily routine as a college student. Waking up early to make sure I make it on time to my 8:10 am class; driving to classes hoping to get a parking spot in front of Copley; attending classes hoping I performed well on my graded assignments; then figuring out what needs to be done next, keeps my body in high alert to make sure I do what I’m supposed to be doing; which in turn decreases my appetite and then when I get home at night I’m so hungry that I eat more than I should and not so healthy. Sapolsky mentions on page 75 that a “big reason why most of us become hyperphagic during stress is our westernized human capacity to have intermittent psychological stressors throughout the day.” This semester I have three classes in a row which leaves me little room for lunch so sometimes I eat during class (something I don’t like doing because I’m not able to fully focus on my food nor the lecture). As Sapolsky says, during stressful days I become hyperphagic once I get home to make me feel better after a hectic day. I am learning the importance of finding serenity throughout a stressful day.

A break for a week from my constant turn on of my HPA Axis (hypothalamus – CRH – pituitary gland – ACTH – adrenal gland – glucocorticoids) will be really distressing since I’ll be able to relax and not have constant worries or stressors coming at me. Being able to sleep in and not have to worry about getting to class on time is something that I really need because I’m starting to feel overwhelmed and my body is telling me that I can’t continue like this anymore. I’m a type A personality so I get easily stressed and anxious about getting things done and doing them well. This is something that concerns me because I want to be calmer and more relaxed throughout my day even though I may have many things to do. I’ve been reading about how deep breathing throughout the day can help with stress so here is a video:

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