How to Keep Stress from Undermining Your Diet: Part 15
Updated: Feb 5
Did you know that 95% of all diets fail due to high-stress levels that can keep a person in fat-storing mode even when doing all the proper traditional diet-related actions?
Most people reach for unhealthy foods when they experience stress.
In Part 13 I discussed how most people start a diet by counting calories, which is one of the main reasons they fail because there are two other vital components to a successful diet. In Part 14, we discussed how the Glycemic Load of each food could make a significant difference in how it affects your weight. Example: 120 calories of broccoli will almost have no glycemic impact or raise your blood sugar, whereas 120 calories of a half of a bagel will send your blood sugar sky-high, causing you to be in fat-storing mode. Simply put, all calories have vastly different effects on our bodies.
The third part of the successful diet puzzle is how stress affects us. Hence the name of this podcast, the Stress Free Diet.
A quick lesson on stress. Stress is what our bodies activate when faced with danger. For example, you may have heard of Fight or Flight. Out bodies automatically start this response, and you will be glad it does because it is designed to save your life. For example, you are jogging, and a mean dog comes out of nowhere and runs toward you. Your brain does not think that fast, so it will trigger what is known as the Sympathetic response that floods your body with adrenaline and a hormone called cortisol to meet the danger.
The problem is that our bodies cannot distinguish between physical danger and emotional danger. A mean dog or an angry boss will both trigger a stress response. Our bodies were only designed to be in stress response for no more than a minute. In that time, you either became lunch or killed the angry beast and had them for lunch.
To make staying on a diet even more challenging is that our bodies burn through a lot more glucose during a stress response, our body's fuel source. So all that extra strength to fight or flight has to come from somewhere. In addition, the stress response causes our bodies to release cortisol when it senses danger. Cortisol increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and enhances the brain's use of glucose by a whopping 12%.
If you really did physically fight or run away from the mean dog, then you would have used the stress hormones that were released in your blood. But because most stress nowadays is emotional and not physical, the bloodstream is still full of sugar; the pancreas has to release insulin to move all that unused sugar. So both cortisol and insulin are fat-storing hormones keeping you in fat-storing mode.
One of the signs of high cortisol is that you wake up at around 2 am and have trouble falling back to sleep. Other signs are weight gain in the face, chest, and abdomen.
To further sabotage your diet plans, after a stress response, you find yourself craving sweets, carbs, fast food, etc., because your body is in survival mode, and it needs to replenish what it just burned.
95% of the modern go-go-world is in some form of a stress response. That is why 95% of people fail at diets. So how does anyone succeed on a diet plan if they are stressed?
There are two ways to approach the problem of stress.
1. The stress relief approach.
By using physical activity to burn off the excess sugar and cortisol in the blood. When I was much younger and stressed about something, I used to go out to my backyard in Connecticut and split wood with my maul. It was very physical work, and I felt better when I came in. Any unused adrenaline will also come out when we sweat.
Present day, every day right after I finish work, I go out for a brisk walk. I walk 1-2 miles and breath in some fresh air. This activity allows me to burn off the excess effects of any stress I may have encountered from other people during the day. This way, I go to bed physically tired and have a great night's sleep.
You can also use your breathing to help reduce stress. Try making your inhale and exhale of your breath be the same. It is amazing how fast this can help to calm you.
2. Stress Prevention
The Stress Prevention approach is far more effective if you prevent the stress from happening in the first place. Then, understand you can do all the right things to lose weight. You can cut your calories and even only eat low glycemic foods, but you will face a steep uphill battle unless you eliminate the stress.
We all have more control of our daily stress than you might think. That is why we have come up with the term Stress Switch. A Stress Switch is a person, place, or thing that causes you stress or to be in a stress response. The more Stress Switches you turn off, the less stress you will experience.
I have shared in the past our top five Stress Switches. There are 108 of them in our book called, STRESS FREE YOU! that you can find on Amazon.
Here are five more from our book STRESS FREE YOU!
Stop the Go-G0-Go Mode: A lot of people tend to attack every task with the get-it-done-now approach. Cutting your lawn, cleaning your house, washing your car, or activities with the family. That approach keeps you in a stress response. Instead, try to enjoy the journey and not focus on the destination.
Don't Show Me the Money: Choose a job with less stress, even if it means a lower salary will end up paying you significant dividends in the future. The greater the stress, the greater the stress spending you will be doing so you may end up in the same place financially but with less stress.
Healthy Vacations: When you go on vacation, cut the cord from work; otherwise, it is not a vacation. Try to schedule more time to relax instead of rushing from one sightseeing location to another.
Invest with Confidence: Only look at your investments, stock, crypto, etc., once a year on your birthday, especially if you have a long time horizon with retirement funds. This action will keep you from being stressed out with all the ups and downs. They do not call it volatility for no reason.
Commute Calmly: Replace listening to all the experts on talk radio or pumped up music with relaxing instrumental music or educational podcasts. Check out the Stress Free Diet podcast.
In summary, it takes all three parts of a successful diet to give you the most excellent chance to succeed.
The calories you consume, the glycemic load of the food you eat, and the amount of stress you experience. Personally, I never look at the calories I consume daily. Instead, I focus much more on the glycemic load of each food (amount of carbs they contain) and try to eliminate as much stress as possible, and I weigh what I weighed in high school. My actual numbers are: I am only a few years away from 70 years old, and I am six feet tall and weigh 148 pounds.
This powerful three-part approach has helped me maintain my weight and increased my energy.
I hope this brings some encouragement and insight and helps you journey to a Stress Free Life.