In a new study authored by two researchers at American University, there is a link drawn between the growing obesity epidemic and increased stress and a sense of powerlessness and insecurity. The authors, Jon D. Wisman and Kevin W. Capehart, point out that on the calorie intake side, economic progress and technological dynamism have increased incomes and lowered the price of food, prompting greater consumption. And on the calorie expenditure side, economic progress and technological dynamism have reduced energy expenditure doing physical labor, while also decreasing the need to expend calories to move about (automobiles, remote controls, etc.).
But, simultaneous with this growth, is the growth of greater societal stress. Many of the economic safety nets developed in the 1960′s have started to erode in the past 30 years, leading to a greater feeling of instability and economic unease.
And all this stress leads us to our foe, cortisol. I have written about this hormone many times. Often, I feel like cortisol is the Professor Moriarty to my Holmes. Cortisol is one of those great Darwinian developments. Thousands of years ago, when we were hunting antelope on the open plains, cortisol was a fantastic gift. In the event we were unable to find food, our bodies would release cortisol, which in turn, would trigger our bodies to hold onto fat. This fantastic chain would help prevent starvation during those times when the antelope proved just a little smarter than the hunters.
Over the centuries, we have outsmarted the antelope: first we developed bows, then guns, then Quickie Marts on every corner where we could buy blueberry muffins and Super Large Slushies 24 hours a day. Success! Hunger slowly becomes a thing of the past. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell cortisol. So in periods of high stress, our bodies STILL release the hormone, taking those muffins and converting them to fat which the body then fights to hold onto. High stress + high fat/sugar foods= obesity epidemic. And epidemic it is, with 7 out of 10 adults in the United States now overweight or obese.
So whacha gonna do? In the midst of creating that super fitness routine and rigorous eating plan that are going to help you shed the pounds, you must also develop that third part of the magic triangle: some form of stress reduction. Some people find that going for a run helps combat their stress. Others find that sitting and meditating is the best form of stress reduction. It may take some experimentation, but finding that means of stress reduction is going to be key to your successful weight loss.
Here’s a great place to start. Check out the Fitness Guru Relaxation podcast. Yes, it may drive you nuts. You will actually have to sit and breathe and relax. But, hey, it’s a starting point. And from that starting point you can start to experiment with what works for you.
Relax and rock on!!
The Fitness Guru