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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Accept Yourself, Ignore Others

I spent a lot of yesterday watching the Tyler Clementi/Dharun Ravi case. My heart goes out to Tyler’s family and friends who had to suffer his loss and think about the pain and torment Tyler felt before he committed suicide. Tyler must have felt extremely ridiculed and distressed in order to commit suicide after his roommate invaded his privacy.  What really makes me sad, though, is that he let such a small group of people affect his fate. While he felt embarrassed and mocked by his peers, he must not have thought about the fact that his peers are such a miniscule percentage of this world’s population. If only he thought about the thousands of people outside of his small world that would have accepted him for who he was and known that the majority of people condemn Ravi, instead, for being a cruel, ignorant and closed-minded bully. I am sure Tyler was too ashamed to seek help from his parents or request to be moved to a new university, but he could have. He could have gone to a new place that accepts him and knows about the video and looks down on Ravi instead of him.

It’s a good reminder to all of us that the tiny group of people we know is only a small group of the billions of other people in this world. Why do we let ourselves get influenced by these people? Don’t compare yourself with the ones around you and don’t let them shape the image you have of yourself. Accept yourself for who you are, be proud of the person you are and strive to be your best, everyone else should accept you as you are. There is so much more out there, and there is so much diversity in this world, so much culture, so much understanding. If you have found yourself in an unaccepting environment, move on, move forward and be proud of the person you are. 

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! 🙂

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!

Listen to Bob

The one common thread I share with my 3 siblings is our love for Bob Marley (well, that and the common understanding of the growing pains we’ve been scarred by).  The four of us are very different in regards to social interests, music interests, even our views on spirituality…but we can all agree on Bob. If the 4 of us can appreciate him, I think most people can.  And my assumption is confirmed by the fact that today, 30 years after his death, he lives on – on people’s walls and t-shirts, radio stations, and remixed versions of his original songs. I think today, being the 30th anniversary of his death, is a good day to share some of Bob Marley’s philosophy.  He was a peace lover and a social activist, who spoke to the world as one race.  You can see his ideals in his lyrics, which can apply to so many lessons in life. I think everyone can appreciate at least one of his songs, and apply these lyrics to an aspect in your life:

Personal Growth – “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds, have no fear for atomic energy.”  (Redemption Song)

Human Rights – “…I know you don’t know what life is really worth, it’s not all that glitters is gold, half the story has never been told, so now you see the light, stand up for your rights, get up stand up, don’t give up the fight.” (Get Up, Stand Up)

Change – (whether political, social or individual) – “It takes a revolution to make a solution.” (Revolution)

One Mankind – “Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner, there ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation…One love, One heart, let’s get together and feel alright. I’m pleading to mankind…” (One Love)

Attitude towards life – “Rise up this morning, smiled with the risin’ sun, three little birds pitch by my doorstep, singing sweet songs of melodies pure and true, sayin..this is my message to you… ‘don’t worry bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be all right.” (Three Little Birds)

I hope everyone is singing by now, because the lyrics are one thing, but they are even more powerful with the music. 

With so many articles written about Bob Marley, today, I learned that the national motto of Jamaica is “Out of many comes one.” Bob Marley truly lived by this motto, which may be one of the many reasons he is considered by Jamaicans to be a national hero.  But he is not only remembered by Jamaicans, he is also an international legend and a world-recognized musician.  Let’s relieve our stress by remembering Bob and listening to him, today. Whether you feel the need to be inspired by his words or relaxed by the beat, there is no doubt that Bob Marley’s music can be a stress reliever.

Music Therapy

This morning I woke up like most mornings – wishing it was Friday and not ready to face all the work on my desk. But, when I turned on my car, one of my favorite songs was playing on the radio – so it put the biggest smile on my face.  All of a sudden, I was in the best mood.  Not that the music got me excited about work, but it did start my morning off with some good and positive energy.

The power of music amazes me.  It has a way of changing your state of mind, which makes music a very effective stress reliever.  It’s as if the lyrics and/or the tune just put you in a different state of mind.  Many people go to music for stress relief, but there is even research on “music therapy” as having many health benefits and easing pain, tension, and sleeplessness.  Who would have thought that just listening to music could be so beneficial?! 

I am not big on the latest bands and artists, but I can appreciate a good song when I hear one, and I can definitely dance to a good beat when one is playing! And, I’m sure we are all guilty of playing a song on repeat a million times, because we just can’t get enough of it.  Next time you feel a bit of stress, put on a good playlist or play a song on repeat…whatever it takes to ease your mind and put you in a better mood.  “If music is the medicine of the soul, let it play on.” (Unknown Playwright)

Go for a Run

Maybe it’s because I know I can’t that I want to so badly, but, I am in the mood to go to the park on a beautiful day with some good music and just run. Hey, if you’ve got the functional body parts right now, do me a favor and go for a run! Nothing beats a runner’s high. Especially for stress balls like me, there is no better time to let off some steam and do some good thinking than while you’re enjoying a scenic run. Of course, I look back on running so fondly right now, but it wasn’t even part of my regular workout routine in the few months leading up to my foot surgery. Funny how we idealize the things we can’t have.   

But, I do want to encourage anyone out there who likes the idea of running/jogging to go out and try it. If you are intimidated by the thought, I know the feeling. Even when I was running long distances, I’d have my reservations, but the second you start, everything changes.  The key is persistence. Start off slowly and keep a goal in mind. If your goal is to run 1 mile, keep on running until you have finally made that mile, even if takes you days, weeks, or months to get there.  Running for 5 minutes will eventually turn to 10 minutes, and, before you know it, those 10 minutes will turn into 20! Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of blogs that log people’s running endeavors and experiences. Many people have set a running goal, and they log each step they take to reach that goal. Many of them are people who hated running and eventually ran a marathon! (I’m not telling anyone they need to go that far, but more power to you if that’s your goal!)

As of yesterday, I’m finally walking without my crutches! The only problem is, I’m losing my patience in the walking boot. I’m promising myself that, once I’m out of this boot, I’ll pick up running again so I can experience that runner’s high. Enjoy your weekend!

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