How STRESS can affect WEIGHT GAIN…

Sometimes when are eating right and getting enough exercise, we wonder why we are still struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Stress can play a key role in this issue. When we are stressed or worried, it can feel like the Australian Open is playing out in our heads. Our thoughts go back and forth from one end of the court to the other. The problem is: do we end up getting the point? And could this be affecting our health?

The PHYSICAL side of how stress can affect weight gain
When we are stressed or worried, our body is preparing for action: our heart rate increases, adrenalin pumps through our system, our blood goes to our limbs (away from our vital organs) and our muscles tense up, ready to fight or take flight. This is because the human body has changed very little in the way it reacts to stress from when we were hunter gathers millions of years ago.  Back then, if we were stressed or worried about something it would normally be to fight for our survival, like fight a big animal or run for shelter away from a storm. The intense thoughts would be followed by action.

Our bodies react to stress virtually the same way as they did back in hunter gather times. For example, back then, if we had just eaten food and then all of a sudden needed to take fight or flight for our survival, two reactions could occur:

1.       Our body would attempt to digest the food in our stomach as quickly as possible so we could use this energy right away.
2.       The food would not get digested properly because the blood needed for our stomachs to perform digestion goes away from our organs and into our muscles and limbs, ready to fight.

The same reactions to stress are still occurring in our bodies today. If we are thinking about something stressful, our body thinks there is a threat and gears up ready to fight or take flight. The unfortunate result of both reactions listed above is that we don’t absorb the nutrients properly from our food.

This can be why we feel hungry even though we have eaten enough food. Our bodies are craving nutrients, as well as something to soothe the stress! Along with this there are symptoms of indigestion such as gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

When we are stressed, we tend to over eat, absorb less nutrients, feel tired, have weaker immune systems, and store more fat. If we are stressed our body thinks there is a lot of danger around, so it will store fat because it thinks we are going into a famine (what with all these scary animals and floods we seem to be fighting off and running away from).

Unfortunately we cannot do much to change the way our bodies have been anciently programmed to respond to stress. But there are ways of reducing the stress that can be creating these negative reactions. This modern way of life is not always suited to the way our bodies are built and stress levels are very high, so it’s important to schedule activities that are relaxing. It is also very important to relax while we eat, so that could mean turning the stressful news off on the TV while we have dinner.

The EMOTIONAL side of how stress can affect weight gain
Relaxing activities are great to manage stress levels, but sometimes we have extremely stressful issues that are not so easily soothed and a form of therapy is needed.  Sometimes we have negative patterns like over eating or worrying too much and we want to stop, we keep trying, but we cannot seem to win. This is when we need some assistance.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a 5,000 year old system and it can be a great help in clearing stress. This system is based around scientifically proven energetic pathways in the body called meridians. These meridians relate to systems in the body, organs and different sets of emotions. The energy running through them can be blocked and create negative effects on our physical bodies and on the way we feel emotionally.

The Stomach meridian for example, flows from the eyes, to the mouth, to the brain, to the stomach, and then down to the feet; following the process ingesting food (we look at it, get a good appetite, chew it, taste it, experience the taste and then send it down to the stomach for digestion).  If there is a block in the energy flow of this meridian, our digestive system may be disrupted.

Stressful experiences and emotions can block the flow of energy in meridians. The emotions that relate to the Stomach meridian are about receiving nourishment and enjoyment from our experiences, and from our connection to people. This meridian is also about sympathy, which can take the form of obsessive worry. If the energy in this meridian is blocked, we may be overly worried about someone or we may feel like our relationships with people are not enough to nourish us emotionally.  We may need to give to ourselves more instead of worrying about others so much. People experiencing a block of energy in this meridian can feel as if they can’t get the love they need from people, so they try and get that love from their food.  This blockage in energy flow can be cleared, so the person does not find it so hard to control their eating and is able to enjoy their experiences with people more.

Some therapies that can clear stress in meridians:

·         Acupuncture
·         Acupressure
·         Kinesiology
·         Shiatsu
·         Chinese Massage
·         Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
·         Chi Nei Tsang

Eastern and western medicine and information are beginning to combine these days so we can achieve a greater sense of health and wellbeing. It’s very common to feel overwhelmed: we are simply not built to handle the high levels of stress we are living day to day. We need to equip ourselves to better handle stress and also know when it’s time to relax.  Studies show that stress has a lot to do with our health and the way we feel, so along with good food, exercise and rest, it’s important to consider how we’re doing emotionally. Then we may have a better chance at optimum health AND at winning that tennis game in our head!

Information sourced by Anita Crosbie; Dip Health Science (Kinesiology)
Real Body World Wide


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