Chart Of How Blood Flows Through The Heart And Body How Stress Can Have a Negative Impact On Your Nutrition

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How Stress Can Have a Negative Impact On Your Nutrition

It’s hard to stress how important it is to avoid stress when trying to change lifelong bad eating habits. Modern life can be one challenge after another. It is the attitude we take towards these challenges that can make the difference. That difference could mean getting those abs you’ve always wanted, getting a job promotion, or it could just mean getting ready for the gym, work, and a date, all in one day. It’s hard to overstate how important stress reduction is to your quality of life, not only in the short term, but also in the long term.

Scientists consistently link stress to disease, and it seems that stress can have a pretty powerful effect on our health. The theory goes something like this; Stress is a known contributing factor to insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. If these conditions worsen, they can cause chronic fatigue syndrome, hormonal imbalance (especially in women), stroke, heart disease, and sexual dysfunction. Some studies also show that stress can cause a weakened immune system in sufferers, which in turn leads to more colds and infections.

Pretty nasty stuff. When it comes to nutrition, stress can seriously undermine your good intentions. You’ve probably experienced this yourself, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. For example, a student who ignores this test correction until last week. Or the office worker who has the boss on his back about that late report. Sound familiar? Then panic sets in, stress hits, there’s so much to do in such a short time. Our body’s response? Increase adrenaline production. As a result, our fat cells throughout the body release fatty acids into the bloodstream. The purpose of this is to provide us with a source of immediate energy. However, it doesn’t take that much energy to sit at a desk and read the same paper over and over again (even if you throw it repeatedly across the room in frustration). Our physical reaction to this is the production of cortisol. Cortisol carries over unused fatty acids and decides to dump most of them around our midsection. Not our best friend in the abs game. It also contributes to visceral fat – the fatty deposits that surround our major organs. Visceral fat is dangerous, studies show that it is very active and can pump toxins into the bloodstream. It also limits the production of endorphins, which can improve our mood.

In the near future, stress translates into doing ‘easy’ food choices. Or at least what we perceive as an easy possibility. For the example above, it could be a student ordering a Dominoes pizza, or an office worker picking up takeout on the way home after a hard day’s work. All we are doing is creating a boom and bust scenario. When we eat these foods, the simple sugars will hit our bloodstream – instant gratification. We all know what comes next. The Crashing. Two hours later, you’re tired, bloated, and unable to pull yourself together. You probably feel guilty too. I should! But all is not lost, it’s just important to realize how far a little preparation and the right attitude can go.

We have all had experiences like the above. Even those of us with defined midsections. The secret is to have food ready to heat up in the fridge. This means cooking healthy meals for the week ahead. Alternatively, if stress triggers cravings for takeout or chocolate and you don’t have nutrient-packed meals ready to heat up, simply start cooking a healthy meal. This can be difficult, but if you push through the cravings, you will feel satisfied and feel good about yourself for having that nutritious dinner that takes you one step further towards your fitness goals.

The lesson is this: managing stress properly will help us make better decisions. Regardless of whether it is our diet, work or life in general. When we’re stressed, we often go back to what we’ve always done. So it could be eating poorly, drinking too much, or handing in that rushed and flawed report to your boss. Right from the start, it’s easy to see how time management can help us avoid stress. But what other stress relievers are there to keep your diet (and waistline) on track?

  • No more for me thanks! Alcohol is one of the best substances you can use to dehydrate your body. The body’s reaction to this is to release a lot of cortisol (remember the stress hormone that stores fat around the waist), control this by limiting alcohol consumption. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a night out now and then, but keep it to a minimum and drink responsibly. Ordering water between alcoholic drinks will also help.
  • Record your progress. Studies have shown that people can manage stress more effectively if they believe they are making progress. Implement this in all parts of your life. Plan and map out your diet for the week (you’re much less likely to go astray this way). Plan your workouts and record them. If it’s work-related stress, sit down and examine what aspects of your job are the source of your problems. Then write down the progress you make in de-stressing those situations.
  • Supplement your peace of mind. Studies have shown the benefits of vitamin C in dealing with stress. You can get this from your food intake, or you can supplement it if you want. 1,000 mg per day is a sufficient amount to potentially help with stress management. It is best to divide this intake into smaller meals throughout the day.
  • Find your happy place. Spend time with friends who have a positive outlook. Avoid people who make you angry, depressed or argue unnecessarily. It is important to realize that some things are out of our control, don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Instead, it’s much healthier for your mind and body to focus on what you can control. This is closely related to planning your progress.
  • Avoid surfing the Internet late at night. It seems like every week sleep experts publish new studies on the optimal amount of sleep per night. Most people agree that eight hours a night is enough. I have worked with fitness trainers who recommend up to ten hours a night for their athletes to recover. The take home message is make sure you get enough for you. Listen to your body. Don’t rely on caffeine to get you through the day.
  • Reframe the situation. Although it may sound like “new age” nonsense to some, the process of problem reframing can be a powerful tool for dealing with stressful challenges. Try to look at problems from a positive perspective. As JFK said; “When the word ‘crisis’ is written in Chinese, it consists of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”
  • And if I really had to tell you: Avoid smoking. Withdrawal from friends, family and healthy activities. Use of recreational drugs. Physical violence. Gambling. Procrastination.

Implementing the above stress management techniques can keep you on track with your diet. If you still view eating nutritious healthy food as a chore rather than something that can improve your health, appearance, athletic performance and sex appeal, then visit the Food4Abs website. It offers simple nutritional principles, motivational secrets for lifelong nutritional success, the truth about popular supplements, and delicious recipes you’ll prefer over takeout. We call it smart nutrition for smart people.

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