Reduce Stress, Reduce Snacking

Sunshine Behavioral Health’s healthcare editor Pam Zuber discusses the link between stress and overeating and how to reduce stress without overindulging. 

Reduce Stress, Reduce Snacking  

Stress is everywhere. It can be overwhelming and cause us to seek comfort in various ways. Many people have coping mechanisms that provide comfort for a short period of time. People might smoke cigarettes, go for a walk, or take up a hobby.

Others look to comfort foods. While there are many ways to relieve stress, some coping mechanisms are more harmful than helpful. Eating snack foods, for example, can lead to weight gain and various health issues.

Reduce Stress – Reduce the Urge to Snack

People who are under stress and use food as a coping mechanism can actually cause more problems for themselves if they don’t learn to control their eating. Relying on comfort foods can be devastating.

Obesity, eating disorders, and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease are all possible repercussions of using food to soothe one’s mood.

Instead, consider doing other things to reduce stress:

Exercise Regularly

Stress can break down the body and mind. It can weaken the body and contribute to depression and anxiety disorders. Exercise may reverse these processes and prevent the body and mind from deteriorating.

Regular exercise doesn’t simply strengthen the body. It also clears the mind. Physical fitness stimulates the brain to release endorphins, substances that elevate the mood and promote positive feelings.

Walk Outside for 30 Minutes

Walking outside for 30 minutes or longer is beneficial in many ways. Being outside exposes you to fresh air and sunshine, and both can contribute to good health. Fresh air clears the mind and gives you a chance to think through stressful situations.

As you walk, pay attention to the scenery. Enjoy the view and look for little things that give you joy. You can also invite a friend to walk with you. Good conversation is a great way to reduce stress and gain new perspectives.

Participate in Hobbies

Practicing a hobby can also help you take your mind off the things that may give you stress. Music, art, and various crafts are popular hobbies for relieving stress or frustration, for example.

Engaging in hobbies distracts us from our worries, while creating something beautiful can turn a negative mood into a positive one.

Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing exercises bring much-needed oxygen to the body. This can clear the mind and allow you to focus your energy on the positive aspects of your life.

As a bonus, you don’t need any equipment or tools, and you can perform deep breathing exercises anywhere at any time. Deep breathing is beneficial far beyond just relieving your stress. It also strengthens your cardiovascular system as well as your overall lung function.

Start a Meditation or Guided Imagery Practice

Guided imagery and meditation are other practices that can minimize stress. They may also help you find ways to solve your problems.

These tools can be relaxing because they allow you to momentarily forget your troubles and go to a place of comfort and solace. By focusing on the present, you may be able to think more clearly while your stress and frustration fade away.

Receive Massages and Therapeutic Touch

Therapeutic touch and massage therapy can also be effective stress relievers. They break up tension in the muscles and other soft tissues and allow people to release physical stress.

Massages can improve blood flow, while regular massage and therapeutic touch can be calming and help reduce stress and discomfort.

Practice Yoga or Tai Chi

Yoga and tai chi reconnect the body and the mind. They can re-establish the mind/body balance and promote calming and overall well-being. Both include deep breathing exercises and structured movements that can relax the body and soothe the mind.

Performing either of these on a regular basis can help you maintain a state of balance to keep stress and frustration at bay.

Stress management can take many forms. While some people turn to snack food or drugs and alcohol, others look to healthier options. Understanding how stress affects you can help you determine the best ways to cope. Finding healthy ways to handle your stress is essential for good health and emotional well-being.

Sources 

cdc.gov – Coping with Stress

hopkinsmedicine.org – Tips to Manage Stress Eating

health.harvard.edu – Exercising to Relax

huffpost.com – National Walking Day: 5 Ways Walking Helps to Relieve Stress

headtohealth.gov.au – Purposeful Activities – Hobbies

uofmhealth.org – Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

wa.kaiserpermanente.org – Stress Management: Doing Guided Imagery to Relax

amtamassage.org – Massage Therapy Can Relieve Stress

psu.pb.unizin.org – Yoga and Tai Chi

sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Austin, Texas

 

Pam Zuber is a longtime newspaper, magazine, and website writer with many human interest articles and feature stories in publications such as Minority Nurse, Sivana East, and the UAB Institute for Human Rights. She is also working for Sunshine Behavioral Health as an editor.

 

Increasing Your Real Worth

how to increase your real worth

Do you know what you are worth? Are you happy with it? Discover how to develop infinitely increasing self-worth.

Is Online Counseling Safe and Effective?

It can be. Here’s what you need to know:

Telecounseling, using the telephone to conduct legitimate counseling sessions with licensed therapists, has been occurring for close to 50 years.  Telemedicine is what they call it when doctors and other healthcare providers provide services via telephone and Internet video connection. Now, it is a common practice, a clinical mode that is studied and taught to doctors and therapists, and in many cases, covered by health insurance.

As an older Licensed Mental Health Counselor, a boomer, I have been slow to accept the rapid advance of our culture into the digital age. I was even slow to accept the idea of distance counseling via telephone, without the eyeball-to-eyeball and close-up intimacy of live personal human contact. But circumstances forced the issue, with established clients sometimes homebound, and more and more people living an hour or more away who wanted to work with me. I found that counseling over the phone worked quite well, and actually had some distinct advantages over in-person sessions. No travel time, for one thing. It’s also convenient with less stress for busy people and those uncomfortable with going to a “shrink’s” office.

Today, telecounseling is routine and accepted, and the issues that were raised as potential problems, like privacy, confidentiality, compliance with the HIPPA laws, protection of personal health information and your most guarded secrets, have been answered with services that use technology and accreditation to insure those things. Counseling via phone or video calling, if done appropriately, can be as safe and effective in many cases as in-person counseling.

The same rules apply as with any healthcare services you seek. You need to make sure you are dealing with a licensed health professional in your state. You need to check what the counselor presents in their website or other public information to see if they might be a good fit. You need to be willing to invest in at least one session to see if the fit feels right. Also, you need to be prepared to try a different counselor if your first choice doesn’t feel right.

When COVID-19 hit early this year, telecounseling was a godsend. So many people needed help to cope, and distance counseling was perfect to meet the needs for social distancing and stay-at-home protocols.

Right at that time, I noticed a lot of advertising on NPR by BetterHelp, an Internet company that promised connection with licensed counselors through your computer, tablet or smartphone. I did a little checking and found they offered access to a professional counselor 24/7 via text (the counselor would respond within 24 hours if not sooner), for $40 per week and up, depending on how much service you wanted, and you could also arrange phone or video sessions.

I balked at the idea of counseling via text or chatting. I had a lot of experience as a user of social media, and I’m certain that real counseling or therapy cannot occur with texting or chatting. However, I have also served as a mental health expert in media where “ask the expert” questions were invited, and I would provide information that was very helpful to people. It was kind of like a “Dear Abby” column and it turned out to be very helpful to the people who wrote in. In fact, lots of people get lots of help with personal problems with therapeutic ideas and information they glean from books and other quality sources. That could not be called counseling, but it is in fact referred to as “bibliotherapy” when a counselor gives you a book to read. So, while it’s not counseling, communicating with a professional counselor with questions, issues and problems can be quite helpful. As one of the “Ask the Expert” experts when answering a message from those writing in about a problem, I’d sometimes suggest, after answering their question, that they connect with a professional for real counseling if it seemed like it was what they needed. As it turns out, I believe that’s what happens when you connect with a counselor at BetterHelp.

While I was spurred to write this article by BetterHelp’s community outreach, I don’t want to give the impression that I am endorsing them. I don’t know anymore about them than you’d know by reading what they say at their website. If you are interested in looking into online counseling, I’d suggest you do what I did and Google it. You’ll get pages of things to look at and there are some good articles to read from good sources like Psychology Today and The New York Times.

One thing I’ll heartily endorse is the experience of working with a counselor. I think it’s something everyone should do. Of course, it’s my life’s work, so you’d expect that I believe in the value of it. And I think it has value even if you don’t have a terribly troubling problem, like my specialty, infuriatingly stubborn weight control. In fact, talking to anyone rather than keeping everything inside is usually helpful. Sometimes though, if the person is not a professional, they can do more harm than good. It’s better to talk with someone who knows the right things to say and how to avoid making things worse.

Talk to a counselor, it’ll do you good.

Are Protein Shakes Really a Good Idea For Weight Loss?

In a word, “yes”. Here’s why. A real weight loss expert explains.


New clients and readers ask, “What should I eat to lose weight? What should I avoid?” I don’t answer with lists of foods and diets. Instead, I teach a method for permanent weight loss that includes the foods they like, holidays, dining out and all the things they’ll want for the rest of their lives. Success comes from building habits that include your favorite things while they keep you at your optimum weight. “Dieting” with schemes that won’t last only leads to yo-yo dieting and continuous weight gain.

However, I’m sometimes asked questions about specific foods that are easy to answer and provide immediate effective help with no study and effort. One of the questions is about the advisability of protein shakes. The answer: yes, they are a good idea, and here’s why:

1) Protein shakes are an easy way to achieve your daily caloric goals.

To lose weight, women generally need to limit their intake to about1000 calories per day consistently for an extended period of time, and men, about 1500. In our culture of big breakfasts, lunch in restaurants, meetings and break rooms with snacks and vending machines, you’ve undoubtedly discovered it’s impossible to do. It’s easy to be at 2000 before you’ve even gotten home for dinner.

By keeping your breakfast light with a 300-calorie egg-based breakfast, and then using a 150-calorie protein shake as a meal substitute at lunch, it’s easy to limit your intake during the day to under 500 calories (especially when you use my meals-and-fasting method), leaving you 500 in the budget for a satisfying home-made or prepared meal at the end of the day.

2. Protein shakes suppress your appetite rather that stimulate it.

Simple carbohydrates, like the sugar in prepared foods and fruit, act like a drug that stimulates your appetite. You feel hungry soon after you’ve eaten and it’s hard to resist eating more. Simple carbs are digested quickly and sends your blood sugar way up. This triggers an overproduction of insulin by your pancreas, which sends your brain the message that you need to eat more. We experience this as hunger and cravings. A grain and fruit breakfast often makes people ravenous by 10, while going without doesn’t.

Protein, on the other hand, takes a long time to digest and keeps your blood sugar even, without the spike in insulin and the hunger and cravings it creates.

So, you’ll find that a 150 calorie protein shake will fuel you for a whole morning or afternoon without feeling hungry again a few hours later.

You’ve got to be careful, though, in selecting a “meal substitute” shake. When you look at the nutritional information, some are loaded with sugar and they are low in protein. Some so-called “healthy” shakes and snack bars are just sugary drinks and candy bars in diguise. You’ll end up hungry in a short while just like with other sugary foods. All shakes are not equal. You’ll see some with just a few grams of protein and mostly carbs, and you’ll be hungry right away. When you have those, you can never get enough. Some of the better shakes have as much as 30 grams of protein. Those will stay with you all afternoon.

3. Protein is especially important nutritionally when you eat less to lose weight.

You’ve probably heard of the “RDA”, the recommended daily allowance of nutrients the dietitians talk about. If you don’t get enough protein, carbohydrate, fat (yes, even fat), vitamins, minerals and water, you risk compromising your health. Usually, in America, we don’t have to give it much thought because we eat so much that you can’t help but get more than enough of everything.

However, when you cut back enough to start losing weight, you risk hurting your body rather than helping it if you’re not getting enough of the right nutrients.

Remember that reducing your weight and body fat requires you to “undereat”, consuming fewer calories than you burn. (Read my article about the science of weight loss). Most of the calories in typical American foods come from carbs and fat. Our usual diets are low in protein. When you cut back, unless you pay attention, you won’t get sufficient protein.

When you undereat, if you don’t get your nutritional needs met, your body will “eat” itself to get what it needs. That’s great if it gets what it needs from your stored fat. But if you are not getting enough protein, your body will consume it’s own muscle and organ tissue, and that’s very bad. You’ll see the scale drop, but you’re losing muscle instead of fat. You’ll look and feel worse, not better. And your metabolic rate will decrease. It will become harder to lose weight and keep from gaining!

By using a protein shake with 30 grams of protein as a lunch or breakfast substitute, you can make it easy to get enough protein to prevent muscle loss even when you are eating much less than your metabolic rate.

So, yes, protein shakes are a good idea for weight loss, especially when you make them a habit for life. I’ve been using them on a regular basis to keep the calories down for over 30 years. They’ve helped me maintain my ideal weight using my method the entire time after years of being obese. I highly recommend them.

How the ‘Wheel of Life’ Can Help You Find Balance

 

 It led me to the miracle I discovered for weight loss, the end of workaholism, and to greater success than ever before.

There is a tool in the toolbox for personal development that has been around for over a thousand years called the “Wheel of Life”. You may be familiar with it if you have been exposed to life coaching or personal development for greater effectiveness in your business life. When I first learned about it, I was “successful” in a business sense, but I was obese and working myself to death. I learned of it in a course I took to become more “successful” in directing and managing a staff and organization. Fortunately, it led me to changes that would save my out-of-balance life, and led me to the successful and highly respected weight loss plan I developed to reverse obesity, and it is now taught all over the world in weight loss programs, hospital and clinics. The “Wheel of Life” was a very important discovery for me.

Below is an example of it you may be familiar with, created by Paul Meyer, creator of Success Motivation Institute and one of the originators of what has become “Life Coaching”. He is credited as the creator of the modern day version of the wheel of life and a pioneer in the business of personal development and life coaching.

This has been a useful tool when life has gotten out of balance, such as suffering from workaholism, getting burned out, or generally being unsatisfied and not sure why.It’s been very effective in helping people to become more effective and satisfied with their life even if they are not burned out or unhappy. The idea is to identify the areas, dimensions or aspects of your life and arrange them as areas or spokes around a wheel.

The circle represents your life, the whole of you. The pieces of the pie, or spokes, are the parts your life: the areas, roles, or aspects of the whole. You assess those aspects and create a graphic like the one here to see how balanced your life is. Below are some more examples.

You can see, depending on the version, that some wheels have more and varied aspects. The nature of the aspects are up to you and usually identify parts, areas, roles, needs or dimensions of your life.

Again, the idea is to assess these parts of yourself or your life to see if there are important things you’ve been neglecting, or things you’ve been giving too much of yourself to.

Here are a few more examples.

This last one is the oldest example, one of many Buddhist wheels of life. The wheel model or symbol is said to have been used by the Buddha as a tool to teach his students his lessons of enlightenment. This one represents Buddha’s eight-fold path, perhaps inspiring Meyer’s “paths”.

What’s The Purpose?

Today, the tool is used mainly to identify what we need to do when life is out of balance, for instance, when the wheel shows us that all our attention is going to work and we are ignoring our health or needs for fun and recreation. The second illustration shows the wheel out of balance. This tool is usually used in goal-setting exercises, to help us be more balanced when we set goals.

But, what is the goal and purpose of life? To set and attain goals? Success? Is life a game where winning is a matter of the goals attained, and the more the better? Or is it something else? Is it not to enjoy happiness, bliss, to be content, satisfied and happy with yourself and life? To truly thrive? Isn’t that the success we seek?

Centered and Whole

The purpose of the wheel of life exercise is to make sure our wheel, the whole of our life, is balanced, all aspects or needs fulfilled in the right way. When one aspect of your life becomes the focus and the others are neglected, the wheel is out of balance. We know what happens to an out-of-balance wheel. It gets wobbly and is likely to crash. Our wheel, your life, needs to be balanced around the center. But what’s at the center of your life, the most important thing?

We know, from experience, that success in any endeavor seems to demand a “Singleness of Purpose”, as Rev. Charles Marriott taught in 1852. To succeed, we need to focus on that one thing and give it “our all”. We falter when we are scattered, going in all directions and getting nowhere. The question is, what is it that we should give “our all” to?

Certainly, we know that if work is the most important thing and you are ignoring your health or your family, it’s unhealthy and can be disastrous. It can be the same if religion or your social community is the priority. If family is first, to the exclusion of your own well being, that’s also disastrous.

The one thing that promises to deliver balance is to make wholeness the singular focus and goal. “Whole” is the origin of the word “health”, but it is more than the health of the body. It is about the health of the psyche, mind and spirit, in harmony with existence itself, your spirit one with the spirit of life.

I’ll bet you have been advised to take time to get centered, maybe in an exercise of meditation. The Yogis have forms of Yoga (union) they practice to get centered properly, to become one with the “absolute”, the ultimate Cosmic Reality. Other religions teach us to find solutions by surrender to a Higher Power, putting God first, making that relationship central, the real healing we need, real wholeness. Some teach to let go of selfish desires to be happy and free of suffering. More modern psychologists (students of the psyche, the mind or soul) talk of the life tasks of self-identity, spirituality, the need for self-actualization, and coming to terms with the cosmos.

Regardless of your thoughts about the spirit part of body, mind and spirit, you know that being self-centered or centered on one part of your wheel is unhealthy and unbalanced. Make wholeness, real health, your singular purpose and get centered on what’s really at the center of your being. You might find that balance starts happening on it’s own.