As many of my previous blogs have addressed (Calories, The Great Destroyer, Dieting Is Your Enemy), watching weight and counting calories are futile concepts in my opinion. Weight should not be micro-managed, and life is too short to spend hours each day worrying about your body. If you follow my prime directive (shout out to all my fellow Trekkies) that moderation in all things is key, then no one aspect of your life (food, exercise, work, relationships) will carry a consistently heavy burden on your brain.
But regardless of my sage advice, still many of my clients and friends just can’t stop being obsessed with their weight. When they beg for a trick, tool, or pearl of wisdom that can help them relax on this issue, I have a favorite nugget, I borrowed from my years studying as a classically trained actress, that I call the Purple Giraffe.
You all know the adage of “ignoring the elephant in the room.” One of my dear old directors once suggested that instead of focusing on the Pink Elephant, you should turn your attention to the Purple Giraffe. The idea is this, the harder you try to ignore the pink elephant in the corner, the more likely you are to continuing thinking about it, spying on it, and trying to figure out how to get it out of your sight. BUT, if you redirect your attention to an albeit nonexistent Purple Giraffe you will slowly but surely stop focusing on the elephant (the issue) that is causing you such dismay.
The trick is to imagine all the minutia of the purple Giraffe. How tall is it? What shade of purple is it, and what color are its spots? Boy or girl, young or old. The more details you can fill in, the more your mind will shift focus away from the elephant. Now this may sound like a temporary fix, and it also may not make sense in relation to obsessing about food and calories and weight. However, if the elephant is your food/weight obsession – make the Giraffe be your new workout routine, or a daily goal-oriented plans for training for a 5K. Pick something that you can think about as much as food and weight, but with more productive and positive results.
Set goals, make plans, and when your focus starts to shift back to worries, redirect yourself to the details: how many more blocks will you run next time, what new class will you try at the gym, etc. Please keep in mind I am in no way suggesting that you replace one obsession with another. You should use this technique whenever you find yourself spending a predominate amount of time and energy worrying about one aspect of your life. With a little perseverance and practice your obsession will fade away and a healthy lifestyle will be in its place.
By now you should all know that negative effects of prolonged stress on the body. I’ve written about it frequently, it’s discussed regularly on Oprah, Dr. Oz, and the like. But for those of you living in a constant state of stress, I thought it time to revisit the issue, remind you of a few important stress-facts.
The kind of stress I’m addressing – that of situational, circumstantial, environmental and relationships – starts in the head (emotional). If not dealt with quickly and thoroughly, it moves into the body where if left unreleased, ricochets around your insides like a pinball! A mind/body under stress releases Cortisol. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have numerous negative effects, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Decreased bone density
- Decrease in muscle tissue
- Chronic digestive and intestinal issues
- Repeat muscle spasms (lock of the muscles) in the neck and back
- Serious weight gain or loss
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
Increased abdominal fat, which can in turn result in higher cholesterol, heart attacks, and strokes
So for those that counter with there’s no way to change my current situation or circumstances to alleviate the stress, I say: think again. Not to sound like our founding fathers, but “where there’s a will there’s a way.” If you have enough motivation, you can overcome – and change – anything.
So what’s stopping you?
Think on your situation for a while. Look at what fears (because it always comes down to fears) are stopping you from changing/ending your stress. Hopefully by next week you’ll come to terms with what’s keeping you imprisoned by stress and you’ll be open to positive approaches to dealing with it.
Next week I’ll discusss tools and strategies that you can utilize to reduce your debilitating stress.
Remember: stress kills!