Stress & Weight Gain

Stress & Weight Gain

Hunt & Gather

Hunt & Gather!

I seem to need a little stress in my life to overcome procrastination. I loudly proclaim how much I detest deadlines. They are never far enough out to allow me to get things done, perfectly, before the due date pops up on my calendar. But the reality is that I seem to need deadlines to get stuff done. Maybe hard deadlines aren’t the best choice when it comes to diet and weight loss.

A little stress may have some motivational value. But too much stress is not constructive. And it doesn’t look like it helps me much, when it comes to hitting a goal on the scale. Quite the contrary, it can promote weight gain. My recent adventure with fasting illustrates the point well. I’ll save the actual numbers for the month-end review (one of those deadlines I like so much!) but I can tell you that I lost a big chunk of weight during my four-day fast. Yes, of course there was water loss. But I know there was fat loss too. By some twist of fate, I found myself under some heavy-duty stress during the fast. And it increased immediately following the fast. It was nothing to do with the fast, it was just a perfectly timed little stress-storm, coming from both the work and home fronts.

Among other things, stress produces a hormonal cascade of cortisol and adrenaline to help us do what our ancestors had to do in times of stress. Back in our caveman days, some might have grabbed a spear and went out to do battle with the saber-toothed tiger. While others made the choice to run away, hoping they weren’t the slowest runner in the group! It’s the fight or flight response. The hormonal rush gives us a big sugar boost, to meet that high energy demand, in times of stress.

Today, in times of stress, we tend to grab the tub of ice cream and plonk ourselves on the couch for comfort. And no, I didn’t totally lose it after the fast … I only ate my homemade, no-added-sugar ice cream! I actually ate almost-kinda-somewhat reasonably well in those days following the fast. But I tried to handle my stress by stuffing my face, while lying on the couch. This isn’t the best way to handle stress. I got away with it for the first couple of post-fast days, but the scale punished me badly for a few days after that.

I really do know better. But the stress burden somehow prevented me getting out. And I didn’t even have to worry about battling any saber-toothed tigers. Just a leisurely little walk by the water would have done wonders.  That’s not what I did, of course. And as I indulged in my awful, modern, couch-based, stress-handling technique, I restored about 75% of the fasting losses.

I’m just going to make believe that it’s mostly water gain! And that doesn’t count, right!?!?

Do as I say. Not as I do! 🙂

The Chicken or the Egg?

SunriseWhen it come to what to eat, the short answer is both. But leave the skin on the chicken! That, however, isn’t the topic. Stress eating is. Do we eat because we’re stressed or depressed? Or does bad eating cause the stress & depression? That may be as difficult to answer as to whether the chicken or the egg came first.

One thing my wife knows for sure is that I’m a far nicer guy when I’m eating well. Now my own opinion is that I’m a nice guy regardless of my diet! But I have to admit … I do feel better when I’m eating well. I don’t mean that when I’m eating less, just when I’m eating real, whole, good food. The association between depression & diet is one that has long been made. Very often, studies are done on the basis of who’s funding what. Or which dietary program is trying to prove it’s the best. But long before diets were a marketable commodity, people realised that there was a dietary influence on mood.

I’ve been eating better for a month & a half now. Is it just coincidence that I’m getting up early, and far more often, to catch more sunrises? The therapeutic benefits of those early mornings by the water give me a shot of calm that endures for the greater part of most of those days. Feeling less stressed can help with weight loss too. Which of those came first? Did I have to be less stressed & depressed in order to jump out of bed early? Or did I overcome the “stuff” to get down to the water a time or two before the stress reduction cut in?

It’s all a bit circular, isn’t it? But it probably doesn’t really matter. Because the two things I am sure of are these …

I am better for eating better.

And I am better for the water & sunrise therapy.

I can highly recommend both. And if you didn’t make it up early today, here’s a pic of my morning sunrise for you. Don’t fret if you missed it, there’s always tomorrow.

And please … take a little time to enjoy your day.

Dancing With a Broken Knee

Dancing With a Broken KneeSalsa

It can’t be done at my weight! I have no clear recollection of where it comes from but I love Latin dance. Salsa, bachata & merengue, I love them all. After years of sporadic attendance at class, I’m still a beginner but I love it anyway. It just feels so good. I’ve also come to love the music. Though, as a fat older white guy, I’m sometimes a little self-conscious as I drive around; windows down & Enrique Iglesias or Romeo Santos blasting out at levels where I’m old enough to know better. I remember slow dancing at the disco to some of Enrique’s Dad’s songs! LOL

About a month ago, I blew out my knee. It’s not right yet & I am hopping around favouring the good one, so no dancing at the moment. Evening time is one of my greatest challenges when I try to lose weight. Lying on the couch, watching TV, is a recipe for failure. It’s one I keep on testing & it works every time: I snack & get fat! During most weight loss attempts, & when my legs worked, I’d pop on my headphones, head to the deck, & bop around for the duration of a song or two. Sometimes, the music would get to me & I’d abandon the TV, in favour of an hour of music listening.

Music has a lot to offer towards weight loss. Not only can it stave off a snack-attack, it gets us up & moving. I don’t think the calories burned make much of a contribution. Rather it’s the stress reduction that comes along with moving to, & listening to, the music.

I’d like to do more of this. And I’d really like my knee to get on with repairing itself. Dancing on two legs is challenging enough! 🙂

Weight Loss & Immigration Policy

Omelette

A friend of mine recently shared a post suggesting that we take care of our homeless & veterans before adding to the country’s immigrant burden. I had an immediate negative reaction to it. Of course, I would like our homeless & our veterans taken care of, but does that have to be at the expense of immigrants fleeing persecution & tyranny? Is it different if they are just fleeing from poverty? And even if not extreme poverty, is it okay to just want a better life for your family?

Both my friend & I are immigrants. We came to Canada under the Economic Class. In other words, we had a skill set that was in demand at the time of our application. People with money, business plans, & the gifted would all qualify in this category. What country wouldn’t want the rich & the extraordinary? But even those of us mere mortals who are simply capable of fitting in, & filling a skills shortage, were welcome. Most immigrants to Canada come in under this classification. The next largest group are those that qualify under the Family Reunification category. Here, we can sponsor a parent to come to Canada, for example. And there are financial obligations for the sponsor under this category, so it’s not a free for all. The final, & smallest, category are refugees & those accepted for humanitarian reasons.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no overt racial or religious biases in the system. Other than those bestowed on all of us, for good & bad, by accident of the place of our birth. While it’s easy for a white English speaking person to not see racism or bigotry in Canada, I’m still guessing that it’s not the worst place on earth for anyone to live, regardless of race & religion. Diversity does seem to have value in the psyche of most Canadians.

Comforting myself with all this Canadian niceness, it bothered me that my friend would think to share something contrary to my somewhat smug position. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking on the topic since. Does he have a point?

Who gets what benefit in this equation? For those who want to come here, & those who need to escape circumstances in their homeland, it’s of benefit to the immigrants. For companies in search of skilled workers, there are benefits to having an enlarged pool of talent. Indeed, there are advantages to some business sectors to have a larger, more affordable, unskilled labour pool. In theory, & in general, I’m of the belief that something that benefits business should benefit the country. And all of us living here. The goal is that everyone is better off in the long run.

That said, there are likely mathematical limits on this benefit equation. Is there such a thing as too many immigrants? The too many scenario has the potential to breed discontent. In today’s troubled world, we can see the rancour that is possible when people feel that these limits are being exceeded. Is my friend’s take on the situation an early warning sign that we are approaching those limits for some? Very often the counter to anyone expressing this argument is an emotional, rather than mathematical, one. It seems that there are some very bright people lending support to both sides of the equation & I am committed to trying to learn more. It doesn’t look like there is one, clear, definitive answer yet but, while I search for something approaching that, I should probably try to contain my gut reaction to such messages in future. Exploring both sides of these dilemmas, & asking more questions of those with opinions contrary to mine, would probably be a more useful approach for me.

Now what does all this have to do with weight loss?

There are an increasing number of societal challenges before us. The answers are not easy to come by. Could the worries generated by the political antics of our time be elevating our stress levels? Can we add those daily stresses to the weight gain challenges we already face?

I think it adds to my stress burden. And I probably do need to take a break from my news addiction. Maybe I need to listen to music more often. Perhaps an occasional run to lake for some water therapy would help. A morning walk through a morning misted forest? A glass of beer with friends might even be an acceptable dietary strategy in the modern world.

Okay, that’s pushing it … I’ll be good & just have a glass of red wine, or three, instead!