Five easy tips to start fighting the emotional weight gain

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Let us start with the most common sentences I hear from women in Health Coaching are:

“I was told it’s almost impossible for me to get rid of the extra kilos, the metabolism is so much slower with age”

“I just cannot get rid of the extra kilos since I had children and it is probably very common”

First of all, yes, the metabolism slows down with age, but not that dramatically that it is our fate to be overweight. What commonly happens with age is inactivity. However, with a healthy diet or increased exercise or both, you can feel the differences in your metabolism quickly.

Secondly, stress often increases with age due to child care, relationship problems, careers or a combination of all. As a result, we often crave high fat and sugary food and decrease regular exercise.

The combination of these factors – increased inactivity and stress – is often a major factor in weight gain. The physics is very clear here – if the calories absorbed are more than recommended daily, you are going to gain weight. You cannot put on the weight you don’t take in, to begin with!

American researchers at Harvard have associated excessive weight gain in a large proportion of Americans with stress. A quarter of Americans say their stress level is 8 to 10 points out of 10.

When people experience stress for a short period of time their appetite decreases. However, under long-term stress, stress hormones help boost appetite and affect poor food choices. Individuals who experience prolonged stress often get addicted to these high-fat sugary foods. Furthermore, when we get stressed (we go in a fight and flight mode), the body often tries to hold on to our excessive weight.

If you think that your additional weight might be emotional and find it difficult to get rid of, these tips could be a good start for you.

  • Before you sit down to eat, I recommend deep inhalation to calm the nervous system down. If circumstances are such that you do not want to frighten your coworkers with dramatic breathing exercises, try to find a place where you can be alone. This should not take much time – just a minute or two.

 

  • When eating food, try to be conscious that you are in fact eating – be in the present. How do you eat? Try to eat slowly and use all your senses. Find the smell and taste of the food and chew the food slowly. It takes the body about 20 minutes to feel full. Make sure you don’t stuff yourself before that time to give the body a chance to say stop.

 

  • Try to put light exercise in your busy schedule. If you have been suffering from long-term stress, do not start too fast, as stress hormone production may increase even more. Slow walks/swimming/ bicycle trips increase the production of “happiness hormones”. Set yourself realistic goals in the beginning. Everything is better than nothing. Literally. You can, for example, drop the elevator, park slightly further away from your destination or walk instead of driving if your errand is shorter than a few hundred meters away.

 

  • Grocery list & weekly food planning will take you a long way. This means really sticking to the list. I mean, nobody puts a candy bar on their grocery list, right?

 

  • Eating while watching the TV / iPad means you are not present and your calorie intake will be more. Try to quit this bad habit, if it applies to you

None of the above is something particularly time-consuming or difficult to perform. A few minutes a day & you can increase your energy, improve well-being and thus have a positive impact on your family life, work and free time.

In the health care center where my internship took place, a study was being performed on the relationship between “Mindfulness eating” and weight loss. Researches indicated that being present while you eat can fight food addiction and help with weight loss.  

References from Harvard Health Publications, Psychology of Eating, as well as own knowledge.Picture by Snæþór Sigurbjörn Halldórsson

 

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