Saturday, May 21, 2011

Want to lose that belly fat?

So, you’re eating right, you’re exercising, but you can’t seem to get rid of that gut? Check your stress.

I remember I used to think that stressing out about stuff, [especially with my subsequent fidgeting], would actually help keep me in shape. Little did I know that I was doing the exact opposite.

That is because when we are stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol, which protects the organs by storing fat around them. I’ve mentioned before, our bodies can’t tell the difference between a physical threat and an emotional threat; real or perceived, so it will respond the same.

In an experiment done with rats, the stressed out rats gained larger bellies. What was interesting was, that as the bellies expanded the stress levels decreased.

A friend of my dreamy boyfriend’s decided that he needed to change his lifestyle. Reducing stress was a huge part of it. So he intentionally decided to make a few schedule changes, which drastically improved his stress level, and his overall well-being.

One change he made was making sure that he was eating dinner at home. This ensured that he wasn’t over working himself and that he was eating right. It also gave him more time with his family. The second thing was that he made sure that he fit exercise in. He had tried running, but that was largely contingent on the weather, so he picked indoor activities that he knew he could do at any time, such as swimming and yoga.

Not everyone is free to make such drastic changes, but here are a few to get you started.

Tricks to lessen stress:
• You may want to try limiting caffeine intake: Some studies have shown caffeine to be a culprit in this phenomenon. This is not for me.
• Exercise. When you are stressed about too much to do, exercise often is the first thing given up. This is the last thing you should cut out. Exercise changes the way you respond to stress, so by all means, make sure you are getting exercise of some sort.

Of course a lot of factors play in to a person’s weight gain, or loss, diet, metabolism, genes, etc. This is just one aspect, but one that many perhaps don’t realize.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Accepting the unacceptable

I was on David Bembenek’s radio show last week, and he asked a question that I admit, I couldn’t really answer intelligently, off-the-cuff. And, to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure, but I have gotten some more clues.

The question was, “[given the all encompassing nature of the fight or flight stress response], why was the response to the recent earthquake in Japan, contrasted with the response of hurricane Katrina so different?”

He was referring to all of the looting and crime that happened in the aftermath of Katrina compared with the seeming placidness of the Japanese in response to the earthquake.

How do stories like; the 13-year-old boy who had been home alone; after the earthquake struck, rode around the neighborhood on his bike, yelling out, ‘is everyone alright?!” jibe with the selfish nature of the reptilian brain?

I was literally brought to tears when I read about a businessman who had been waiting for the train in the cold and the rain, when some homeless people offered him their boxes, saying, “you’ll be warmer if you sit on these.”

While it is true that people will usually behave selfishly when they are thinking with their reptilian brain [or brain stem], some people are able to “upshift” to their more cerebral, or thinking brains a little better in times of trauma.

I think Japanese were more able to do this because of the way they are trained to handle difficulty. Earthquakes are fairly common in Japan, so they were a little more prepared than their American counterparts. They were not taken completely off guard. The closest thing I can liken it to would be to a diabetic, who suffers from seizures frequently. It certainly doesn’t make the seizures any less serious, or scary, but the diabetic’s response would be a lot more different than mine.

Some would say that the close family ties also add to their ability to handle disasters. They take care of each other, not out of obligation, but out of respect and loyalty.
“There’s a lot of orderliness in Japan,” Josh Smith, a Japanese musician with an oddly American name, explained. “Sometimes it can seem redundant and boring ... but at times like this, where there really is chaos there’s a feeling that, ‘well this is the situation, we just have to deal with it.’”

It’s not so much a matter of being free from the selfish effects of the reptilian brain, but learning how to upshift more quickly. I think we can all take a lesson from the Japanese on this.

c. 2011
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Another reptilian moment

I had my own reptilian moment the other day. As many of you know, my dreamy boyfriend and I play trivia obsessively at different local bars. One Tuesday, after working my job at the Curves’ in our town, I was tired, hungry, and very thirsty.

When I met up at the bustling newest location, I flagged down a waiter, who asked what I was drinking. I said, “just a water.” He promptly put down a beer.

I sat there, confused for a while, wondering if my boyfriend had perhaps ordered it for himself [I don’t drink]. So I asked him, he said no.

I, then, spent the next 10 minutes trying to find my waiter, who had disappeared, it seemed. By then I was desperate [not to mention cranky], so I stopped the next waitress that I saw.

“I asked the waiter for a water, and he gave me this, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t water,” I said, snidely.

She went to get my water. As she placed it down, she said, “He thought you said Sweetwater. He doesn’t hear too well,” and moved on to the next customer.

“Oh,” I said, as my parched throat and empty stomach gave way to shame and embarrassment.

My boyfriend said, “I wouldn’t be so snotty with someone who handles my food.” The food part aside, I don’t really want to be a jerk to anyone.

The next time she came by, I apologized, saying, “I really didn’t mean to be snotty, I was just confused.”

She kind of shrugged and said it was fine. However, whenever we come back, and she asks me if I want my water, I feel a tinge of shame.

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