As a health coach, I meet most my clients when they’re not feeling so great. I get much joy in explaining that despite this, their bodies are working perfectly. Our bodies are complicated networks of systems that are programmed to process any input it receives – food, environment, lifestyle – and churn out a result. In other words, the way we live isn't making us feel so good. To change this, we need to change the input.
For most people, the formula to a healthier life means: Eat less. Move more. Stay committed. We’ve seen it work, and then we beat ourselves up for being weak when we binge.
Frustrating? Yes. Our fault? No. At the root of all the ill-fated, maddening attempts we’ve tried to improve our health is stress. Simply, here’s why: stress and sugar work together as a team biologically by design. Yet, when bound together chronically, they can create inflammation (bad output) in the form of joint pain, insomnia, mood shifts, brain fog, digestive issues, weight gain, hormonal issues, headaches, congestion, diabetes, and other serious conditions.
To complicate matters more, the stress-sugar cycle is critical to our survival. Our hunter-gatherer body feels stress for protection and uses its relationship with sugar to help gain weight, store fat or use it for energy to respond to danger.
Our modern bodies are now stuck chronically in this (intended intermittent) stress-sugar cycle. When we turn to carbs when stressed, our bodies turn them into sugar. So bread, chips, wine, bread, cookies, it doesn’t matter. We’re all addicted to sugar – and stress for that matter.
Rather than feel annoyed with yourself that you can’t control your cravings, constant snacking or a “reward” after a long day, have compassion knowing that your body is struggling to manage your chronic stress. To feel alert, rested, energized, calmer, grounded, lighter, we need to give our bodies new information. Aside from moving to a monastery or giving up sugar for good, here are some practical suggestions to help…
1) Eat healthy carbs, whole foods that contain fiber to slow down sugar absorption. Think berries, quinoa, sweet potatoes.
2) Enjoy healthy fats to satiate and feed your brain - it's made of fat. Think olive oil, nuts, salmon, avocado.
3) Have breakfast within 30-60 minutes of waking. Skipping breakfast is more stress for the body. Coffee doesn’t count. A small handful of almonds or 1 T of almond butter does if you’re not a big breakfast fan. Protein, fat and fiber (eggs with sautéed veggies or smoothie with greens/berries, nuts and flax) preferred.
4) Get back to nature. Our natural habitat is outside and we have very similar survival needs to plants: water, air, sunshine and the earth.
Drink water equal to half your body weight in ounces.
Get outside for fresh air and sunshine each day.
Absorb the earth through eating plants, walking barefoot in the grass or gardening without gloves. Spring's almost here!
5) Take 5-15 minutes each day to unplug and connect back to self. Start with 5 deep inhales and exhales. You can transition this into a short meditation. Simply close your eyes, sit up tall, and go back to the breath when your mind wanders.
6) Rest. We are all champions of our own lives, and like any athlete, we need time in recovery mode. Avoid vigorous exercise after a long, stressful day. Unplug by 8:30pm. Take a bath. Get to bed earlier. Wake up later.
I plan several mini wellness retreats throughout the year to help people reduce stress and connect back to self. First up:
Chef Gale Gand for this special day for connecting and cooking.
I also created my healthy prepared food business, The Bread & Buddha Kitchen, to help ease stress by providing all the ingredients to feel good while taking away all the struggles of planning, shopping and cooking. No subscriptions to manage or cooking to do. We're simply here to help, so order when you need us!