I watched a documentary last weekend called Hungry for Change, about the poor state of nutrition in our country. Even though it was a film about food, it was also a look at the human body/mind connection, and how easy it is to fall into a vicious cycle of self-loathing that only makes our struggle worse. In times of stress, like divorce, people often gain weight, and are prone to numerous other health problems. The documentary explores exactly how the body deals with emotional stressors, and offers some solid scientific answers to how we can better take care of ourselves at a time when we need it the most.
Fear and Loathing
When we experience stress, pain, or fear, the body wants to help us in whatever way it can, and that often means storing fat. The reason we are likely to gain weight when we’re stressed is due to a natural biological reaction. As explained in the film, the body wants to store fat because it was conditioned to do so in case the stress we are feeling was brought on by famine. It doesn’t know that we have plenty of food, it just wants to do whatever it can to help this scared brain that is sending out hormonal signals that something is very wrong.
Fat storage is protection, nothing more. Yet, the weight gain makes us resent our bodies, and then we turn on ourselves, feeling angry that we don’t look the way we want, and berating ourselves for not being able to lose weight. But no matter how much a person exercises or how good their diet is, weight loss can’t happen as long as stress hormones are being released, because those send the message that the body needs to make and store more fat. Thus, the vicious cycle continues.
In the months following my divorce, I noticed a slow but steady weight gain, mostly right around my middle. I was eating fairly well, and exercising plenty, but nothing I did helped me shed any pounds. I also felt tired, and couldn’t sleep through the night. I hated my body, and I felt like a complete loser, especially as someone who has always been into fitness. I could barely look in the mirror, and I said some very unkind things to myself on a daily basis.
My body responded to this by storing more fat, and it never occurred to me that it was doing this to try to protect me. In my mind, my body had clearly betrayed me. I loathed myself. I clearly needed to change, starting with my way of thinking. Motivational author Louise Hay advises to write down the following words on a piece of paper and tape it to your mirror: I accept myself unconditionally right now. Say the sentence every morning, and when that negative voice within you rises to the surface, let it. Just keep repeating the phrase, even if you don’t believe it. Within a few weeks, you’ll begin to see a shift. Self love will start to feel normal, and that kind of love improves almost every function in the human body. There are scientific studies that prove its effect is even greater than antidepressant drugs. That’s because words are a powerful force. Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “I am by nature a dealer in words, and words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.”
Visualizing The Body You Want
“How fat or thin you should be is an unconscious decision, but it is a decision.” Jon Gabriel, author and weight loss expert appears in the film to share his wisdom about the subconscious cause of weight gain during stress. As he explains, the subconscious mind controls certain functions in the body, like how much oxygen we need. We don’t have to make a conscious effort to breathe, or to make our hearts beat.
Visualization is a language you can use to talk to your subconscious. Find a picture that represents what you want to look like on the outside. It can be of someone else, or it can be you at a happier, fitter time in your life. Look at the image and allow your subconscious to absorb it, and it will understand.
“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.” Anthony Robbins
Eat Well, Not Less
Besides changing your mindset and thinking positive thoughts, it is also important to give your body the proper fuel it needs to thrive so that it won’t want to store fat. The problem here is that most people think that going on a diet is the only tool for weight loss. But how many people do you know – maybe even yourself – who have tried numerous diets, only to gain all of the weight right back? Instead of focusing on taking away, try adding in. If you gradually add in more fresh vegetables to your diet, eventually they will replace the poor food choices. You’ll begin to feel better, and when you feel better, you are more likely to stick with good choices. When your body is healthy and unburdened by stress and poor nutrition, you naturally start to shed pounds. Because the reality is, you aren’t really hungry for pizza or ice cream or fried chicken. You are hungry for change.
This article is reproduced with permission from First Wives World, a private, secure environment for women going through separation, relationship challenges or divorce.