Covid-19 has been stressful, to say the least. The lockdowns had forced many like me to stay indoors and away from gyms or walks in the park. I honestly thought that if I eat healthily, do a bit of yoga then I would not gain weight. This is one of those rare moments that I was proved wrong and I really really wished I wasn’t.
Apparently, stress can be a huge factor in gaining weight. Disclaimer: we are all unique, some tend to lose weight, some are unaffected. The uncertainty of life, I was stuck for 6 months with my parents, need I say more? Of course, it was cathartic, things were said that shouldn’t have been, things were said that needed to be and I am sorry I didn’t know any better sealed the day.
Science says that cortisol the stress hormone can induce unhealthy food habits which are the main reasons why you gain weight. In hindsight yes I did, usually, after an ugly incident, enjoy my vegetable samosas. My pre-COVID hectic work schedule often meant that I could hardly indulge in food and usually just munched on a salad while working on my desk. Regular home-cooked meals and big portion sizes obviously took its toll.
After the borders opened and I could return, there was no back to the normal for me. The landscape had changed once again, without a job and uncertainty looming in the horizon, my old friend cortisol wasn’t leaving anytime soon. I did what any desperate individual does in times like this. I invested deeply in self-development.
I was forced to take stock of my life, the toxic belief systems that still shackled me and confront the modern-day culturescape that I had held onto. Until life throws a curveball at you, you carry on with whatever works. You don’t questions why you put on makeup even though you hate it, why you dress in a particular way, behave in a certain way, and stress so hard to come across as successful.
Covid-19 made many people realize how much they spent on shopping, movies, parties and fancy dinners. Zoom calls were free and gave you the same happy hormones, Serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. Online learning was what I indulged, caught up with my reading list, mediated, and was grateful.
So what does this have to do with losing weight fast? Everything. What you feed your brain is what you feed your body. If you relax, meditate, and reconnect with your inner being you will find that your body will get off the high-stress state and approach food as a medicine. Our body goes into a fight or flight mode when stressed. Food is stored as fat for emergency and blood is pumped to the extremities in case you decide to fight or run. Your brain turns foggy because your body decides that now is not the time to learn anything but instead stay super focused on surviving. Which means you’re irritable, jumpy, and turn to food for comfort.
Illnesses will also be frequent as cortisol reduces your immunity, the body is living in an imaginary scenario where it believes its exitance is threatened. This is not the time to worry about infection as you might need all that energy to fight that terrible monster that has got you all stressed out. Cortisol impairs insulin secretion and increases hepatic glucose output.
Long story short, nothing good comes out of stress unless you learn to reframe it. Yes, that’ right reframe it. Telling someone to stop stressing is like asking a chocolate lover to stop eating chocolate. Not happening. However you can get them to switch over to a healthier organic version of dark chocolate, all the goodness none of the nasties.
Meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, yoga everything helps but it doesn’t eliminate stress because the trigger doesn’t disappear. That’s why you can be so blissful in a retreat but the moment you return home, to work, its back to square one. Reframing helps because you are programming your mind to respond differently to the trigger.
If you choose to leave that relationship, change that job, move to another city, there will be a temporary relief but not a permanent change. Whatever you are running away from has this sadistic tendency to seek you out, again and again. Like a really bad horror movie, that monster just wont go away.
What you can do is reframe that trigger, that stress response. Just like Olympic athletes who can reprogram their minds to identity nervousness as excitement and use it to their advantage, you can do the same for stress. Apparently, your mind is like a genie, anything you wish or imagine it can materialize. If you convince your mind that stress isn’t a bad thing but instead there to support you then your physiological response changes.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered research that showed that the fear of stress is the real killer than stress itself. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked almost 29,000 people to rate their level of stress. They found that people who reported having high levels of stress and who believed stress had a large impact on their health had a whopping 43% increased risk of death. While the people who did not view stress as evil but did have a stressful life were among the least likely to die. So if you convince yourself that you are not stressed but primed to take better decisions or face that challenge, the body becomes responsive to happy hormone Oxytocin which is also released during stress along with adrenaline.
This helps transform stress into courage, and no one gets fat or sick due to a lot of courage. So next time you feel stressed tell yourself that you’re not stressed but primed to tack massive transforming action. Remind yourself that your heart is beating so that your body gets more oxygen to do what needs to be done effortlessly. Fill yourself with gratitude knowing that while the world may look like it’s at odds with you, your body is right here to help you and support you in anyway that it can. That last thought always gets me so warm and fuzzy inside that somehow that delicious steaming hot crispy samosa doesn’t look all that appetizing.
This Ted talk by Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University is a good talk to help start with the reprograming. She goes further to say that oxytocin helps us bond socially, makes us reach out to those who might be in the same situation as us, brings out our humanity. Just viewing stress differently makes our blood vessels stay normal and prevents constriction. Essentially the difference between suffering from cardiovascular diseases due to prolonged stress and staying courageous is thinking differently.
So if you want to lose weight fast, then think differently, call food your friend. Check your negative self-talk when it comes to food, do you complain that you always put on weight? Are you that big-boned chubby thing? Are you someone who just can’t resist food? Is exercise hard and boring? What you believe will be, if you keep moaning that you can’t lose weight then you most certainly will not.
Start with positive affirmations, I love healthy food, I love being fit, I am drawn to things that are good for me. Take on the identity of that fit and the ideal person you have in mind. Psychologists say that you eventually sink to the level of your identity. You may go on that crushing keto diet and lose that weight only to put it back on if your identity is that of someone who is fat. Redefine who you are. You need to start seeing yourself differently before reality catches up with you.
If just believing that stress is bad for you can kill you 43 times faster then how much more damage is caused by your belief about fat, weight, and all your negative self-talk put together. Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and Alia J. Crum, a student, were apparently able to lower the blood pressure, weight and improve their body-fat and “waist to hip” ratios of 44 hotel maid’s by just casually remarking to them that given the work they did in the hotel they must be really fit. Read more.
Want to lose weight fast? Talk yourself fit and healthy. You are what you think you are, redefine your identity.