By The FIRM Master Instructor Kelsie Daniels
The holiday season is once again upon us. And because I am one of those people who fully enjoys holiday dining, I have to prepare myself for the usual question that comes as I am stuffing my face: “How do you stay in shape?” One of the people who always asks me this question is my dear Aunt Jo. She asks it every year and then follows with how she wants to start working out and eating right.
The holidays make you think about minutes in a whole different way. It’s a time when you eat more, drink more, spend more money and sleep less. You feel time-crunched. You do your last-minute shopping. And as fast as you create the holidays, they disappear.
If you can’t convince them, confuse them.
— Harry Truman
The current media debate about the benefits (or lack of harm) of high fructose corn syrup in our diet misses the obvious. The average American has increased his consumption of HFCS (mostly from sugar-sweetened drinks and processed food) from zero to more than 60 pounds per year. Obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven-fold. HFCS is not perhaps the only cause, but one that cannot be ignored.
Doubt and confusion are the currency of deception, and they sow the seeds of complacency. Recently, these have been used skillfully through massive print and television advertising campaigns by the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to dispel the “myth” that HFCS is harmful and assert through the opinion of “medical and nutrition experts” that it is no different than cane sugar. It is a “natural” product that can be a healthy part of our diets when used in moderation.
Except for one problem: Even when used in moderation, it is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay and more.
I did a Google search on what causes stress in people’s lives and I found things like unemployment, divorce, financial problems, health issues, fatigue and so on. In reflecting on how I deal with stress, let’s just say that far, far less than unemployment has caused me to eat a dozen donuts in one sitting!
Yes, I’m talking about stress eating. Most of us have had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing it at one point or another, and it is not for the faint of heart. I can down a whole can of party peanuts if Auden has a particularly bad day at school! Thankfully I have come to terms with the real me and I am now able to recognize the signs of impending stress and do a fairly good job of not eating us out of house and home when things get rough. Please allow me to share some of my tips, and I welcome any you have to share that have worked for you.
I have a confession to make: For years now I’ve treated myself to wholesome, organic foods while buying my pets conventional pet food. Not off-brand mystery kibble or cat chow, mind you, but still. I blamed the cat; he’s a notoriously picky eater, and the one time I offered him a sample of “the good stuff” he turned his nose up at it and staged a hunger strike until I switched back to his standard 50-cents-a-can fare. I admit, I was secretly happy that he seemed to prefer the cheap stuff.
The National Institutes of Health, in monitoring obesity and overall public health, has announced the impact of “holiday weight-gain” on the long-term issue of obesity. Are the 5 to 7 extra pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas really an issue? No, not really. Most people will take the initiative after the new year and get most of it off. But it’s the most of it that’s the problem. There seems to be about 1 extra pound that lingers each year, and that yearly pound is beginning to look like a possible cause of the slow, age-related (upward) movement of the scale.
So how can reducing stress help you lose weight?
It starts with the hormone cortisol, which has become synonymous with stress. You may have heard or seen an advertisement for yet another magic weight loss pill or potion that reduces cortisol in your body to help lose weight. But how does cortisol really affect our body’s ability to store fat? And how can we reduce the amount of cortisol in our bodies without resorting to weight loss pills?
Numbers on the scale often become the center of focus when trying to determine a healthy weight. Annual exams at the doctor’s office include a weigh in; weight loss centers determine success by a drop in pounds; and there is talk from time to time about Body Mass Index (BMI) in the media, which refers to your “appropriate” weight based on your height.
Are you one of the 30 million women and 15 million men who have a chronic medical problem that is both under-diagnosed and under-treated? Are you suffering from vague symptoms that you think are normal parts of life, such as fatigue, feeling sluggish in the morning, and having trouble with your memory, concentration or focus? Do you have dry skin or fluid retention? Is your sex drive not what it used to be?
Have you ever exercised a bit harder because you had ice cream the night before? Ever justified making a poor dietary decision (dessert/second helping/third cocktail) by thinking, “I’ll work out twice tomorrow,” or “It’s OK, I ran 10 miles today”?