We live in a society that creates stress. You know this because we all live with it. Some of us have more, some of us have less. Some of us manage it better and some of us do not. However, there are things you can do to improve your stress levels. No, it is not getting a new job, even if at times that is necessary.
There are tools that you can use to improve your life and well being. The first, and I know this is for myself, is exercise. When my mom got sick with cancer, that was quite stressful. It was as high as when I was running calls as a first responder. When she passed it was even higher. The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful moments in life.
I knew I needed to take care of myself. None would do it for me. So I dragged, and I mean this world, DRAGGED, myself to the gym. I knew it was good for me, and after a short workout, I did feel better. As I have written in the past, then I got a tooth infection and that did something to my body. My dragging myself to the gym became the I need to move, period. If I do not, I feel it. So I go to the gym.
Exercise is great to get rid of some of that stress, but what we do to the body is not just limited to how much, or little exercise you do. Incidentally, you exercise to keep your joints moving. It is good for your heart health, it is a great stress reliever, losing weight…not so much. Increasingly we are finding weight loss is far more complicated than just calories in and out.
What we are finding is that sleep is far more critical, as well as when you get that sleep. When you get less sleep than you need your body will hang on to calories.
When you are trying to lose weight, there are certain things you know you should do. You give up on sugar and junk foods in favor of eating more vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. You hit the gym regularly and try to move as much as possible throughout the day. What you may not realize, though, is that getting enough sleep is a very important part of losing weight.
The amount of sleep you get directly affects your diet. People who are sleep deprived tend to weigh more and have more trouble losing weight than those who get adequate rest, even when they follow the same diet. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body over produces the hunger causing hormones leptin and ghrelin. You could be more susceptible to overeating, while at the same time being less satisfied afterward.
People who consistently get less than six hours of sleep also show glucose and insulin levels and characteristics similar to diabetics, even if they are otherwise very healthy. Your fat cells lose their ability to properly use insulin. As your body becomes more resistant to insulin, it will produce more and more in order to function. This leads to fat buildup and could eventually lead to diseases like diabetes.
Then there is your diet. As I have written before, you need to eat good food, and research shows that highly processed foods are not good for you. We, humans, have evolved to eat a variety of less processed foods. Many Americans do not eat enough vegetables and fruits. We have diets that are conductive to weight gain.
It is not just the amount of highly processed foods we eat. It is also the fact that we do not eat enough fiber. Why should you eat vegetables and fruits? Fiber will help you to keep full but also has other benefits. It will create bulk, help with cholesterol in your blood. It also helps with glycemic control.
Since I have lost quite a bit of weight, people who know me ask, so what diet do you follow? I am a fan of something closer to the Mediterranean diet. Why? It has a lot of nuts, with healthy fats. It also has a lot of vegetables and fruits, as well as lean meats. Is this strictly a Mediterranean diet? No. It is close though.
I also have incorporated a lot of central Mexico dishes, which are high in fiber, and low in fat. Traditional Mexican food is not what you think off when you go out to a restaurant. It is not burritos, (a Los Angeles invention.) It is not Nachos, (An El Paso creation.) For that matter, it is not Fajitas, a classic of Northern Tex-Mex.
But, I went to Mexico on a trip…of course, a lot of these American creations have made it to tourist spots. I would be shocked if they did not. However, classic Mexican food is beans, squash, chiles, and corn tortillas. This is the basis of the diet going back ten thousand years. Lean meats, such as fish, and turkey were added as well. At one time there was dog in the diet as well, and they were bred for food, not as pets. Then there are tomatoes, of more recent domestication, but they are used often in the food, and quelites, a generic term for a lot of leafy greens. In the United States beans are usually fried, but not in Mexico. For these, I make an exception and buy them canned. It is only me and the parrot who eat them. It is a lot of work to get them done.
Classic Mexican cuisine at one time also included insects, and that tradition is not fully gone. With a changing climate, I am betting the consumption of Maguey worms, ants, and Chapulines will come back with a vengeance. All are good sources of protein, but this is not part of my diet. First, finding any of this in the United States is next to impossible. Second, I know that my husband would not even try them. Full disclosure I have eaten grasshoppers (chapulines) and ants. I have also tried the maguey worms, in a warm tortilla with salsa and beans.
The point is that you need to find foods that will be tasty, not that hard to make, and cook it. A good diet, with plenty of sleep and exercise, is good for you. It also makes you more productive. Why? You have the energy for life.
If you sit in front of the couch, or the desk, all day and don’t move…you will have less energy. Try to walk a little every hour if you are at a sedentary job. I know it is not always possible.
Eat a good diet, that has variety and it is tasty. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, and cook at home. Going out is a good thing, but not something you do often. And yes, go to the gym and get enough sleep. It will make a huge difference in your life.