By: Nora Gallagher
As a Mom of triplet boys I am all too familiar with the conditions of “chronic stress” and “adrenal fatigue” but these past eight months have taken the symptoms of these conditions to a whole new level.
Now, add on the stress of trying to navigate the upcoming holiday season, and I sometimes feel like my head might explode! If any of you can relate, you may also be able to relate to constantly finding your hand in a bag of Oreos or rifling through the freezer to find the ice cream! But don’t worry, you’re not alone...
When a person perceives a situation as stressful their brain releases adrenaline hormones, including cortisol. Our subconscious then begins to work overtime trying to sort out the ongoing wave of stressful emotions such as fear, grief, loneliness, uncertainty, etc. In an attempt to reduce the stress, our minds are looking for foods, primarily those which contain a lot of sugar, that can give us a spike of dopamine and temporarily remove us from these feelings. Cue the ice cream!
So with that said, what can we do to get this under control??
The first suggestion may surprise you … its acceptance. Let’s just take a second to acknowledge that we are about to approach our first ever holiday season while in the midst of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. For some of us, we’ve experienced tremendous loss during the last 8 months, whether that be our loved ones, our jobs or our overall sense of freedom.
We’ve also lost the simple ability to just reach out and give our parents a hug without worrying, or sit on our neighbors porch and enjoy conversation without wondering - could I be putting myself or my neighbor at risk?
We’ve lost so many forms of interpersonal connections that we have relied on to get us through hard times in the past. And that isn’t something that should be taken lightly. As such, if a treat once in a while gives you a temporary feeling of relief, then I say go for it. At some point this will pass and when that time comes, we may have to buy a larger pair of shorts but that will be OK. We will have gotten through it and we will be stronger because of it.
However, after 8 months, if you are feeling like enough is enough and you are ready to take back control. Here are a few strategies to consider:
1. Be Aware and Make a Plan!
Studies have shown that people tend to find security in a solid plan and routine. Take note of the snacks you are “binging” on and when and try to instead plan for a healthy snack during those times. Put that snack front and center in your fridge and create a schedule for your day and an intention - make it a routine and stick to the plan.
Everyone knows that working out can help keep your weight down but did you also know
that people who exercise regularly sleep better at night, have sharper memories and feel
more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives? Even modest amounts of
exercise can make a real difference and have a strong impact on depression and
anxiety. That’s because when you exercise, your brain releases several neurotransmitters including endorphins, serotonin and dopamine all of which play a crucial role in regulating your mood and the positive choices you make throughout your day!
3. Prioritize your sleep!
When life is busy, often the first thing we sacrifice is sleep. Sleep or rather inadequate sleep quickly throws our bodies off balance and as a result throws off your blood sugar. When our blood sugar is off, our body craves...sugar!! The benefits of adequate sleep will not only increase your glucose metabolism but it will also calm your hunger hormones, allowing you to feel satisfied with an appropriate calorie intake.
4. Incorporate healthy fats
Adding healthy fats to your diet, such as omega-3 and omega-6 may help reduce your appetite. Foods rich in these omega’s help your brain produce leptin, a hormone known to reduce appetite by suppressing the area of the brain that controls our appetite. Without adequate healthy fats in your diet, you’re more likely to have low leptin levels, which can induce overeating and an inability to feel satiated. Check out the Best Nut For Weight Loss
5. Supplement with Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a crucial role with several of our cognitive and bodily functions. It is most commonly known for its ability to help bones absorb calcium, but recent studies have also linked vitamin D to a variety of other benefits. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, many people are turning to Vitamin D supplements to boost their overall immune function as it is linked to anti-viral properties and may protect against respiratory illnesses. It is also known to aid in mood regulation which can help ward off depression and anxiety. If those reasons weren’t enough, it has also been linked to weight loss when partnered with calcium due to an appetite suppressing effect.
Ideally it would be great to get your daily vitamin D intake from the sun and natural food sources, but unfortunately there aren’t that many foods that are rich in Vitamin D, with the exception of salmon, eggs and mackerel. Also, now that we are entering the winter our exposure to sunlight is also dwindling so it’s important to find a high quality Vitamin D3 supplement to add to your daily routine.
When chronic stress and/or adrenal fatigue is left untreated, it can evoke diseases of inflammation including: blood sugar dysregulation, cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety, immunosuppression, fatigue and impaired cognition and infertility so it is important to try and manage your daily stress as best as you can. At the end of the day though, emotional eating comes from a place of imbalance and I think it’s safe to say we are all two steps away from going over the edge. So just remember to be kind to yourself and do the best you can for this crazy time being