stress and irony

I’ve officially declared it: nothing sabotages my “gain-my-life-back” lifestyle like the stress of my lifestyle.

At least for me, a healthy lifestyle requires a balanced triangle:  mindful eating, meaningful exercise, and time.  (You just can’t accomplish healthy eating or exercise without time.)  Stressful events or trends in your life suck away time, leaving you unable to eat well or exercise.

When I was completing the final stages of my graduate school program in late 2005 and early 2006, I gained about 20 pounds back of the 100 or so I’d lost up to that point. I was preoccupied with finishing my degree and starting a new job.  I didn’t really eat more than I had been, but I certainly wasn’t exercising like I should have been.

After losing weight again in the summer of 2006, I gained a few pounds back in late 2006, when work got really busy.  I started eating poorly, and I was not exercising.  I got things under control again this year — I’ve lost about 20-25 pounds again since January, but the overall “net loss” has not been much, because I just keep losing the same few pounds I gained when life got stressful.

When things get stressful, that’s when we should take care of ourselves the most.  But, the “time-sucking” factor associated with stress turns our attention away from our health needs.

What do I do when I get stressed about something?  Well, either I completely throw myself into the situation to fix it, or I do nothing and avoid it.  No matter what, my chronic headaches intensify, and they just make me want to go to bed.  When I get a headache, the last things I want are 30 minutes on the treadmill and a salad… an afternoon on the couch and a plate of pasta sound much more appealing.  And I would guess I’m not alone in these desires.

Despite my best personal efforts to work against the elements of my life that stress me out the most, I am not sure I will be successful unless a societal shift takes place, mainly because I do not know how to disconnect from the stressful elements long enough to recover from them.  Our “always-on” society implies that we should stay constantly connected to our jobs, our families, the news… and, as a result, we have no time for ourselves.

Even now, as I’m writing this post, I cannot seem to stop checking for new emails, looking for online friends on my IM list, or thinking about the project I’m supposed to be doing right now.  I’m working on my laptop while sitting in front of the TV, and a few minutes ago, I saw our satellite TV service flash the name and number of somebody calling me.  (The sound of the phone ringing exacerbated my headache.  ha!)

So what do we do?  As we attempt to keep up with it all, we “grab ‘n go” fatty, sugary, processed foods at the vending machine or the convenience store, and eat it in front of our computers or in our cars.  Our exercise consists of rushing to our cars between errands, as long we opt to not use the drive-thru.

For now, and for always, I will attempt to keep the following promises to myself:

1.  I will exercise at least three times per week, remembering that exercise decreases stress, both immediately and over time;

2.  I will not allow the general stress in my daily life, or particularly stressful periods, to negatively influence my food choices;

3.  As any physicist will attest, I cannot “make time” for myself, but I will control the amount of time I give to others’ demands;

4.  I will listen to (and respond to) my body’s signals that I am pushing it too hard;

5.  I will have faith that keeping these promises to myself will ensure my continued success in my weight loss efforts and in my life in general.


2 comments so far

  1. Susie on

    Wow. I read the whole blog from beginning to end. It was really amazing! I am so inspired, and I hope you keep going! I keep trying myself to lose some weight and I was just looking for a quick fix. After researching on how to eat healthy and exercise it really isn’t as easy as people think and I really enjoyed reading what you had to say from personal experience. It is a complete life changing experience when you finally decide for yourself that it is really up to you and no one else to change your life. I have always had the idea that you make your life the way you want and if you are miserable it is your own fault because you are the only one who can change it. This is good to see that it can be done with enough will power. I hope you write about the exercise one, because that is where I am struggling lately. I have been trying to do the ‘get up at 6am walk for a half hour and then go to work, routine’ but it just seems to be such a struggle to exercise everyday, because I am so tired in the morning. After work I am so tired then as well so I feel like I am losing this battle.. I really like your promises to yourself especially #3. “As any physicist will attest, I cannot ‘make time’ for myself, but I will control the amount of time I give to others’ demands” that is such the truth. I find that the biggest problem.. I want to do things to make me happy, relax and not work on things so hard but truth be told its a matter of where your priorities lie. What is most important in your own life. What time you have, make the most of it.

    Thank you for writing such a great piece!
    I look forward to reading more as it comes.

  2. dmrn0328 on

    Susie, I’m so glad you are finding my blog useful so far. I really hope I help others do what I have done (and am still trying to do) in some small way.

    I totally understand the struggle with fitting in exercise. I’ve found that even if you can only exercise every other day, it might be enough, or at least more than not exercising at all! One thing to remember is that exercise is somewhat counterintuitive: you feel too tired to exercise, but exercise gives you more energy. (Try it — if you feel tired during the day, go take a 5 minute walk and see if you don’t feel better afterward.) Also, if you are exercising, you need more water so you don’t get dehydrated.

    I hope you keep reading my blog. Let me know if I can be of further help!

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