Cut Stress so You Don't Get Fat

Written by Paul Wolf

"Yikes, she's really let herself go." Most of us are guilty of having made this observation more than once.

What we don't realize, says Dr. Pamela Peeke, the author of Fight Fat After Forty, is that "it's not so much that she's let her body go, but her mind."

Peeke, whose approach to weight loss and stress management is based on the premise that the stress hormone cortisol makes you overeat, says that the way to regain control of your life and your body is to plan on it: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."
By scheduling stress-reduction techniques and healthful meal preparation into your calendar, you can outsmart the hunger hormone.
The following are examples of self-care activities based on Peeke's book. Be sure to pencil them in to your calendar.
  • A warm bath and quiet time away from everyone. No kids, no partner, just you and a solid hour to soak in the tub.
  • Meal preparation at home. The definition of a healthy diet has been drilled into our heads: avoid fried and fatty foods; eat lots of fruits and vegetables; etc. But who has time to eat that way? You do, if you plan ahead. If you're already making dinner, schedule an extra 20 minutes and make your lunch and nutritious snacks for the next day.
  • Take brisk walks near work. You get an hour for lunch, but you don't have to spend a full hour eating. Walk for a half-hour every workday from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m.
  • Practice "relaxation response." In the 1960s, Dr. Herbert Benson determined the conditions for deep relaxation. He called it the relaxation response. You can do it in a parked car, near a flowing river or at home. All you need is a quiet environment, a passive attitude and a mental focus, such as listening to the sounds of birds or your breathing. Schedule 20 minutes for eliciting the relaxation response as often as possible.
  • Strength training in the gym. Get strong and you'll get in control. Every Monday and Thursday, pencil in one hour for the gym (includes drive to the gym, changing and workout). If something urgent arises, bump the gym workout to the next day, so you will always get at least 48 hours recovery time.
And remember, scheduling means planning, not inflexibility.

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