Beat Stress, Beat Belly Fat


If you haven’t heard, stress is a huge enabler of weight gain, and specifically to the abdominal area. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is a hormone that is secreted into the bloodstream in response to stress. The higher the stress level, the higher the secretion of cortisol, and the higher the secretion, the more prone your body is to storing fat…right in the belly.

Don’t let yourself be a victim to stress-related weight gain. Although it’s much easier to reach for the remote control and lounge around while chomping on high calorie and high fat foods, try to make the better decision – like hitting the gym, going for a walk, and eating the healthier, belly-fat fighting snacks, like fruit and yogurt, and other foods high in fiber. Not getting enough sleep also contributes to high-stress levels, which will cause your cortisol levels to be higher, so don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep.

 

 

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Take care of You

A while ago, I wrote a post about pampering yourself, as it is a key to stress relief.  Well, I just recently pampered myself for the first time since having a baby, and wow did I feel good!! It felt like a whole new experience to get my nails done and go to the mall just to stroll! No changing diapers, no feeding, no rocking a baby to sleep, I was all by myself, enjoyed a long mani-pedi with a small back massage and it really did change my entire mindset! I went from feeling so stressed and tired to being super relieved and really happy :). Pampering myself has become a new priority, because I learned that going almost 3 months without any self-care really caused my sanity to spiral out of control! Whatever it is that is keeping you from taking care of yourself, drop it now and put yourself first.  Find a friend, spouse, parent, or a babysitter to take care of your kid(s), or set a goal to treat yourself to something after a big assignment, or leave work early if you are guilty of over-working yourself! Just take an hour (or five) to spend on yourself, and do whatever it is that you really miss.

I know a lot of people who have let stress take over their lives. Some people are affected physically by it, and you can tell by their deteriorating health that they are not taking care of themselves, and others are affected mentally by it, which is scary since it is not as obvious to the people around you.  Whether you let stress affect you physically or mentally (or both), you need to learn to stop and take a time out. I learned a lot just from taking a personal break, and I hope you can find time to do the same.

Don’t Eat to Procrastinate

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I know I am not the only one who eats to procrastinate, right? I am working from home right now, taking care of my baby, trying to set up the small things in my new house and writing thank you cards – I kind of have so much to do, I could forget that I’m hungry, but that doesn’t happen to me.  On days like today, I don’t give myself the chance to feel hungry! It’s like the more things I need to get done, the more often I find myself in my pantry instead of in front of my laptop or at my desk or anywhere else I should be. Maybe I should add “eat” to my list of things to do so that I won’t do it! 🙂

Any of you out there guilty of the same thing, take it from me before you open your fridge or pantry, or do whatever it is that you do to procrastinate. You just feel worse after it! I now have to work later and the day feels as if it’s almost done and I have accomplished nothing except for eating a nice variety of foods! Just go ahead and get your work done, you will be a lot happier by night time when you don’t have a longer list running through your mind. Start with the small things and then work towards the bigger ones. Once you get into work mode, you will feel much more productive, and you will get a lot more accomplished. I’ll try to start now, but looks like I need a better start to tomorrow!

It’s YOUR Choice

My sister sent me the above image after she consoled me through a breakdown. This breakdown came after I bitterly returned to work following a measly 6-week maternity leave. Yes, I said maternity leave, I just had a baby J (so, I hope I can get some forgiveness for disappearing the way I did)! The crazy thing is, I work for family, so I never thought I would be going back to work with a grudge. But the truth is, it’s hard to leave such an adorable, dependent baby that you happen to be in love with to go sit at a desk in an office that you are definitely not in love with. I realized that I took the job with my family for the convenience of it (ironic, huh?) but not for the fulfillment. Before I had a baby, I didn’t mind this, I thought working for family was the way to go – at least you work with your heart knowing it’s for the best of your family business, not some corporation you don’t care about, right?  Well, I fooled myself.

I realize that I have not sat down to think about what I really want to do with my life (besides being a wife and a new mommy) since I moved back to Houston (4 years ago). Like the quote above, I have been limiting myself to the reasonable and the possible, letting the easy route guide me. But, for now, I know that I have loved writing this blog, and being away from it for almost 10 months now has reinforced that it’s something I do enjoy and that does fulfill me. So this time, I really am back. Just don’t tell my family that I’m writing this while I sit at that desk 😉

What about you? What choices are you compromising? Are you allowing yourself to do what you truly want?  We all have factors that influence our decisions, maybe a salary, or benefits or family, so we can’t always “follow our hearts.”  But, we can take small steps to find our way towards fulfillment and make the choices that we want, not make the choices that are easy.

Natural Energy Boosters

Well, so much for my “fitness week” blog posts! I successfully gave you only one fitness tip the entire week (I hope you all got to try out a spinning class)! Unfortunately (or maybe I should say fortunately?), the only excuse I have for you is laziness – pure laziness. I just have not had the energy lately to write when I’m at home, and I’m too busy at work to try on my lunch break.

So, today’s stress relief advice is to introduce natural sources of energy to your diet. We all get low on energy, and many of us make the mistake of loading up on sugars or “bad for you” snacks to get a short-term boost. I happened to come across an article on WebMD about how food is linked to one’s energy and mood. If you want to read the details of how food can affect your energy, click here to read the full article. I will let you know which foods to make sure you add to your diet 😉

1)      “Smart Carbs” – carbs are not our enemy as many may think, whole grains like whole wheat bread and pasta and brown rice are good for you! They are also sources of fiber, which stabilizes your energy flow (other sources of fiber include beans, fruits and veggies)

2)      Cashews, Almonds and Hazelnuts – magnesium-rich foods, and Brazil nuts – a source of selenium to boost your mood

3)      Lean Meats – good sources of protein keep you alert and focused

4)      Omega 3 and Folate – both can be found in leafy greens, and Omega 3 can also be found in fatty fish like salmon, both can counter depression

5)      Water – water should be your best friend throughout the day, keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day will fight fatigue. Also, you may be thinking you are hungry when, in reality, you are dehydrated and thirsty.

6)      Caffeine – the article also makes mention of caffeine, which I will not elaborate on (even though I am a big fan of coffee, I do not depend on it for energy), but caffeine includes tea, coffee and chocolate, which all have their great benefits

7)      Breakast – you can visit “Start your morning off Right” for more on this  

Load up on your healthy grains, fruits, veggies and healthy proteins – keep your diet balanced and you’re sure to have an energy boost. I will try my best to keep my diet in check so I can throw my lethargy out the window and continue blogging! 🙂

Celebrate Independence

This would have been better if posted yesterday, on Independence Day, but I had to share my “I’m back” message :).   Also, I was so excited about coming back, that I forgot to wish you all a Happy 4th, I hope you all enjoyed it! I was inspired by the 4th of July to think about independence and freedom, and how important they are to the self.  Turns out, they are extremely important, as I’m sure you already know.

I have always prided myself on being so independent and, while I think I am in some aspects (I’m happy to spend time alone, or show up anywhere solo, or even tell myself that I don’t care what people think), the truth is, I have found myself to be an extremely dependent person. I have realized that I want people to be on the same page as me, I want people to agree with me, and I don’t want to be alone in my beliefs and opinions.

Then, I had a conversation with my impressively wise and younger brother, and it occurred to me that my personal happiness has been so rooted in what people think of me and whether or not they can understand my feelings.  Even though I think I can physically handle being alone, I cannot stand being alone emotionally! As I listened to my brother passionately explain to me his philosophy and outlook on life, I realized that he must find himself in a minority among many of his peers.  Does he realize that? Yes. Does he care? No.  I was in awe listening to him and at the same time thinking, how can my younger brother be so much more evolved than I? He truly doesn’t care what people think, he only cares about what he thinks and how he feels. Now that’s freedom.

I wasn’t thinking about the emotional dependence that can exist because I was focusing on the physical and financial aspects of dependency. I wanted to write about how, while we will always be in need of friendship, love and people that we know we can depend on, we should know that we can also depend on ourselves, more than anyone else.  Now I see one more element to independence, and that is freedom from caring what people think and what they believe, and the dependency on yourself to be happy. I’m really thankful for that conversation, because it really opened my eyes.  As we celebrate the USA’s independence, let’s also celebrate and embrace our own!

Pump some Iron

When I work out, I like to have high-intensity exercises, I like to sweat, and I like to see the calories burn. So, naturally, I am a cardio person. I never used to work out with weights, because in my mind, I don’t sweat enough, so I must not be burning calories.  Plus, who wants to get bulky, anyway? So, I kept putting off the weights, and deeming them unnecessary.

I have read and heard that there are so many benefits of including strength training to your work out regimen, but the encouragement never really sealed the deal for me. Even though I heard that it increases lean muscle mass and that it keeps your body burning calories for longer, the verbal benefits didn’t really give me the desire to go lift weights.  I finally started going to some cardio and weight training classes right before my surgery, and then that had to stop, so I didn’t try long enough to see any results.  It wasn’t until after I spent an entire month hopping around on crutches, that I noticed my arms getting toned.  This is when my interest in weights began to peak, and I learned that persistence is key.

Now that I have tried to maintain the toned arms, I’ve started to work on making my entire body toned through strength training.  And now that I have finally incorporated it into my workouts, I think differently and I feel differently, and believe me, it’s a change worth making.  I definitely feel the increased energy, and, although I cannot feel the calories burning throughout the day, I feel the changes in my body.  The best part is that sore feeling when you know you’ve challenged new muscles in your body. When we challenge our bodies in new ways, we force our muscles to work harder, and, in turn, it jumpstarts the fat-burning and weight-loss process.

So, now I can speak from experience when telling you why you everyone should pick up some dumbbells and turn up the resistance for a change. Incorporating weights into your work out routine will let you feel the burn, feel the strength, and, eventually, start seeing the changes. If an extra 10 minutes off the machine means 100 less calories to you, believe me, those 100 calories at that moment will probably add up to 150, later.  Try for yourself and try to find the results you’re looking for.  Then, you can gradually increase your iron-pumping sessions to 2-3 times a week.  Good luck and have a great weekend!

Making Decisions

Have you noticed that the more options we are given, the pickier we get? If you are hungry and go to a restaurant with a large menu, you spend too long being indecisive, but if the menu only had chicken or beef, you’d probably make your decision in a second. Or going to the store when you need a pair of jeans, but not being able to choose because, all of a sudden, you need a new boot cut and a new straight leg and a new skinny jean and a new boy cut. So many options make it hard for us to make a firm decision. But what’s even worse is the more we get the less appreciative we seem to be. Why is that people with less seem to be much more grateful than those with more?

I hadn’t put much thought into this until I was talking to a friend who is trying to make a difficult decision. She just came out and said “I wish I had nothing and I didn’t have a choice to make, then I would be forced to be happy with what I’m given.” I had never thought about it that way before, but it’s true. We usually find a way to be happy with what we are given, but when we get to choose what will make us happier, we can’t seem to choose which way to go. 

I had originally written this post as a stress-relief tip on being content with what we’ve been given by having the attitude of a “poor man.”  I was ready to post it, yesterday, but, ironically, I was put to the test, first. I ended up having to make my own choice, and believe me, it was a petty one. But, because I am me, this little decision turned into the biggest ordeal. I didn’t end up posting to my blog, yesterday, because I wanted to see what I would learn from my own experience. So what did I learn? Well, first I learned that things are much easier said than done! But I think we all know that one! But, I learned to go with the decision that made me happier.  The “right” option is not always going to make you happy, but if the one that makes you happy can be “right” then go for it. Where the line seems to get obscure for me is where it is right for me and where it is right for others.  One of my biggest lessons in my blogging journey is learning to worry for myself as I worry for others and take care of myself as I would take care of others.

I feel very fortunate and blessed to live the life I do and for what I have been given, but that doesn’t change the fact that the smallest choices seem to play such a significant role in my approach towards happiness. I do not think I’m the only one in this position, which is why I feel brave enough to post this to the public.  Hopefully, we can embrace an “attitude of gratitude,” when looking at what we’ve been given, and when it comes to making choices for ourselves, hopefully we can embrace an “attitude of self-gratitude” and think about our own happiness.

At the end of the day, remember that the choice you do make was made for a reason, and there will be good in that plan. “Be content with what God has given you, and you will be the richest of people.”

You are what you Eat

We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat,” but we know it doesn’t mean we will become nuts if we eat nuts! It is simply a way to say “eat well” – if you eat healthy foods you feel healthier, if you eat unhealthy foods feel unhealthy.  So, making an effort to put healthy foods in our diets is essential to living a nutritious lifestyle and feeling well.

Eating foods that benefit your body will reward you in the near and far future. Not only does healthy food have long term benefits to our overall well-being, but it also provides natural “cures” for people suffering from specific ailments.  You can find a food that is rich in just about every vitamin and mineral you may be lacking. If your memory is failing you, eat some fish, if you feel sad, eat some dark chocolate, if you need a brain boost, eat some walnuts, if you are cramping, eat a banana! There is almost always a remedy in natural foods, so imagine how strong your body can be if you put these plentiful foods in your daily diet.

I understand that it’s easy to choose a meal based on what our eyes and taste buds may be shouting for, but have we ever thought about how our stomachs and bodies will react and respond to it? I think most people can agree that if they take fried foods out their diet, their stomach will reject them when reentered into the digestive system. The same idea goes for processed foods.  If you train your body to forget the unhealthy foods and digest and accept raw, natural, and wholesome meals, our stomachs will realize that processed foods and packaged snacks are foreign objects that do not benefit the body. And, I promise, eventually, your eyes and taste buds will be jumping for the beneficial foods.

Just a note, I do believe that a healthy diet is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and if you can completely take out all of the “bad for you” foods from your diet, then more power to you! But, I do not want to be a hypocrite, because I know more than anyone that I am a sucker to many processed snacks and junk food! But, I only let myself have them in small doses. I do not, by any means, make them a part of my daily diet.  Just make sure you’re “good” the majority of the time, and let yourself have a moment of weakness every now and then. 

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.”  – Hippocrates

Make a To Do List (and check it off).

 One of the best feelings, for me, is crossing things off a To Do list. I’m going to admit right now, that sometimes I add things to my list that I have already done, just for the sensation of crossing it off! (Don’t judge me). Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do, that we either forget them or we keep putting them off. Keeping a list in front of you will keep you organized and allow you to follow up on items that are still pending. I prefer to make lists for both work items and for personal errands.    

To Do lists are extremely beneficial in sorting out your thoughts and focusing on your priorities. Many times, they help me realize that only few items are of great significance, and the rest are really not that bad. Also, I am a big multi-tasker, but that isn’t always in my best benefit. It’s easy to forget something when working on too many things at the same time, so using a list as a point of reference will always get you back on track if something is forgotten. Most importantly, I think these lists help me with time management. By looking at a list of things I need to do, I can have an idea of what kind of day I have ahead of me. Of course many unexpected tasks will come your way, but at least you will have an organized way of going about it and taking control of your responsibilities.

So start managing your stress by making a To Do list beginning right now. I’ll help you start:

  1. Read Daily Dose 101
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast…

😉

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