Many of you are aware of my new obsession with fitness. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was my Ultimate Makeover post from last month or maybe it’s this spare tire that I carry around my waist every day. Actually, I think it’s because Lee brought home a treadmill and I feel guilty having it in my house if nobody is using it.
So anyway, in my quest for physical fitness [I bet you never thought you'd never hear me say that, right? Especially after I was lucky to get a C in gym class my whole K-12 career.] I’ve subscribed to Self magazine and Shape magazine [I don't know when I think I'll have time to read all of these magazines, but I've got 'em if I need 'em.].
On Shape magazine’s website there is an interesting article by Candace Combe, M.S. R.D., L.D.N (whatever those initials stand for) called Lose that belly fat!. Ms. Combe states “You exercise, you eat right, but you still have a pooch. Here’s the surprising reason why — and how to fix it.” Ok, that grabbed my attention because we all know I have a bit of a pooch. It’s none to flattering having my belly skin hanging over my bikini bottoms at the pool. So something must be done to put a stop to this travesty.
According to Ms. Combe there is a big correlation between that ab flab and stress. And that’s “because fat in the abdominal area functions differently than fat elsewhere in the body. It has a greater blood supply as well as more receptors for cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol levels rise and fall throughout the day, but when you’re under constant stress, the amount of the hormone you produce remains elevated. With high stress and, consequently, high cortisol levels, more fat is deposited in the abdominal area since there are more cortisol receptors there.” Plus when you are under constant stress [like marriage problems, family issues, death/illness in the family, hating your job (hmm..), etc.] this can lead to depression and hence feeling more stressed. So it’s really a giant vicious circle.
But wait there’s hope. Ms. Combe goes on to explain how to overcome (or at least deal with) your stress. She states, “If you want to get rid of the fat at your midsection, begin by introducing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, exercise and deep breathing.” When I was in junior high (or middle school or whatever they call it now), my chorus teacher [yes I was in chorus...back then they let just anybody be in chorus]…so anway, she taught us a good relaxation exercise that I still use today. Lay flat on your back in a dark, quiet room and imagine you are on the beach. Listen to the seagulls flying over and the waves hitting the shore. Feel the heat of the sun beating down on you and the warmth of the sand. Then starting with your toes imagine you are becoming one with the sand. Move on to your feet. Feel them becoming one with the sand. And your ankles and so forth. It sounds goofy, but it really relaxes you. So try it.
Plus we need to watch our diets. A lot of us love the “comfort foods.” You know what I’m talking about. Things full of carbohydrates like bread and pasta and cookies and cake. Or ice cream and chocolate. I could eat some Sour Patch Kids or Runts all day long. But these “comfort foods” may make us feel good at the time, but down the road they aren’t going to do much for that ab flab…unless moving up a pant size is your goal.
Ms. Combe’s suggest “the nutrients that show the most promise for long-term stress relief are the Mediterranean Diet’s keystone: the omega-3 fatty acids.” The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes “nutritious foods such as fish, nuts and seeds, whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables and eliminates or limits saturated fats and processed foods”. You know those processed foods get you every time. They are quick and easy, but not so healthy. “The best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel; if you don’t like fish, try flaxseed or walnuts.
Now for those of you who enjoy fish this may work for you. I, however, despise fish and I’m not too keen on walnuts either. And what the hell is flaxseed? But, still on the Shape website, there is another article by Robin Vitetta-Miller titled 4 stress-busting recipes. In this article she has the “low-stress diet pantry list” which includes fish (especially fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, herring and mackerel), flaxseed, fruit, lean protein (skinless chicken and turkey breast), monounsaturated oils (olive, peanut, canola), nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, cashews), olives, soybeans, vegetables, and wheat germ. So I think we can all find something we like and still try and eat a stress-free meal. I personally love fruit, veggies and chicken, so I’m all over that.
So in closing (of my second magazine report in a week), follow the 6 simple ways to shrink stress (and ab fat) (which I have plagiarized below).
1. Eat more foods with omega-3 fats. These essential fatty acids have been linked to a decrease in both stress and body fat including ab fat.
2.Take a hike, a vigorous walk or a bike ride. You’ve heard it before, but daily exercise is truly one of the best stress reducers you’ll ever find — and it will also help you lose weight.
3. Go Mediterranean. The Mediterranean Diet is a boon twice over: It reduces weight and chronic disease.
4. Relax — every day. Deep-belly breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation therapy (in which you tense and then relax your muscles, moving down the body from head to toes) are all tried-and-true ways to beat stress.
5. Limit stress-fueled noshing. People who frequently turn to food when stressed have higher levels of both insulin and cortisol.
6. Think positively. Negative thought patterns create stress, but if you learn to look on the bright side more, you can cut tension. Pick up the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David D. Burns, M.D. (Quill, 1999), which is filled with tips on how to improve your outlook and fight negative thinking.