People who are already battling the bulge seem to really pack on the pounds when they experience stress. Jason Block, MD, whose Harvard research appears in The American Journal of Epidemiology, implicates stress as a trigger for weight gain. Apparently stress is gender specific. Men get stressed over the workplace hierarchy, difficulty paying the bills, the inability to learn new skills along with workplace demands. However, women have broader categories when they experience stress, especially strained relationships and feeling limited by life’s circumstances according to Dr. Block. I have observed in my own stress management work that most women feel stress more intensely than men and seem to get trapped in a negative loop.

For years the research has been out there: stress creates an inflammatory response for both mind and body. This means you are out of balance not sleeping or exercising enough and eating mindlessly to self-soothe – particularly junk food. In fact, cortisol one of the stress hormones is known to build fat around the abdomen making you more prone to metabolic syndrome which can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other ailments.

However, don’t get stressed by these findings. Awareness can help you identify the pattern to minimize your stress and maximize your health and happiness. Stress is a cumulative process. While you might not be able to deal with the big stressors in your life just yet, you can certainly cope with the small stressors. Each stressor that you deal with it raises your stress threshold for the next and signals personal empowerment. You need to have empowerment to lose weight – to know that you can do it with balanced eating and exercise. This mindset helps you go the distance.

I always say, “Metabolize your past by letting it go and you will lose weight.” Anger blows things up out of proportion and you want to avoid anger in all cases, so your waistline doesn’t blow up. This is why forgiveness becomes a necessary ingredient in feeling and looking lighter. By compassionately reinterpreting the resentment you can move past it instead of fueling it which revs up your stress hormones.

To experience serenity you do not need to live by the sea or in a country cottage, far away from stores, technology and your ambitions. On the contrary when you are serene, you are more productive, creative and flexible. You achieve because you know how to return to your internal reference point. Like ocean waves, you venture out into the world with all its unpredictable, ambiguous and destabilizing situations and then return to your internal, peaceful shore.

The great news is that you can alter your serenity set point. Here’s how to shed stress and the excess weight.

  • Exercise is the most efficient and effective way to get rid of stress. Try a walking meditation. When you are upset or sad, take a walk. Think about your legs taking you to your next happiness.
  • Don’t suppress and silence your worries. Allocate daily worry time to face what is bothering you. Write down your worries in the form of a list. Objectify them. Think of how you can deal with each one to make peace with yourself.
  • Try to write simple sentences in third person about the obstacle or conflict. No adjectives or adverbs allowed! This means expressing the clinical facts – not the stories you build around them. Read your sentences out loud and try to see them from a more neutral perspective. It would be nice if everyone you know acted according to your rules and beliefs, but they don’t. Aim for compromise instead of winning.
  • Make sure that you meet your daily requirements for personal time and nurturing. Otherwise you will slow down your emotional metabolism and become irritable.
  • Every Sunday night take an inventory of the past week: What worked for you and what didn’t. Then plan out two types of menus for the coming week: the meals you will eat as well as food for thought to give you more contentment.
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