It’s that time of year that is ever so happy for some, while for others it is a time of great stress. Yesterday was Thanksgiving where hopefully most folks were able to enjoy a blessed day with their families. Yet we know that for a great many, these so called special days drive us to the brink mentally, and Thanksgiving is only the beginning. We barely get a breather and now we need to complete our Christmas shopping, the wrapping of gifts, wondering how we are going to pay for them all and hoping we do not gain too much weight again this year. In the military we used to say that you just had to “Learn to embrace the suck and drive on.” This does not work so well in the civilian world, and it damn sure does not work for those who have never had to push through no matter how hard life might be in the moment. Truth be told, learning to embrace the suck and drive on for us military veterans is not the exact answer either as many of us suffer from post Traumatic Stress once our careers are over. In fact, for many of us retired veterans, at a time when of our lives when we have dropped our heavy ruck from our backs, there is still a heavy mental one which remains in our minds only to weigh us down with stress.
Lets talk about stress, have you ever:
- Caught a cold right after a big event?
- Craved candy bars when pressured to meet a deadline at work?
- Found yourself unable to think of a name, find the right word, or remember where you left your car keys when you are under stress?
- Lost your appetite when troubled or anxious?
- Gained or lost weight when a relationship ended?
If so, then you have experienced what science is only just beginning to understand; stress, diet, mood and immunity are interconnected. What you consume, how well you cope when life has dealt you a bad hand, how clearly your mind can process information, your moods, and your risk of major degenerative diseases are all interconnected. Some of this is obviously beyond your control, yet what you put into your own mouth, foods that can affect these issues for good or bad, are under your control. No one is being force fed against their will.
While some want to believe that others are lucky to live charmed lives, here is a news flash; To be alive is to be under stress. No matter who you are. Some of us can be triggered by the honking of a horn in traffic, getting a late notice for a bill in the mail, or we can have a positive stress come our way on occasion. Positive stresses such as getting a new job or promotion, falling in love with someone, or the beginning of a new life after leaving an abusive relationship. Stress can prompt us to reach our goals in life, to be better people, to expand our personal horizons to new heights. Stress can even be fun, such as when riding a roller coaster or watching a scary movie. But usually, the stress we recognize the most comes as anger, worries, jealousies and fears. This kind of stress is really a distress and can rob us of health and mental wellness.
Stress can be a primal response to a danger, a survival of the fittest basic instinct going back to the beginning of tie. Stress to a caveman meant his ass was about to get killed by another caveman or a wild animal. Way back then, danger meant you had better be taking care of your business in a hurry if you did not want to meet your maker. As Darwin might have put it, those who responded quickly lived. Those who didn’t, well too bad for you.
Even back in cave man days, danger meant your nerves would be triggeed and your glands would secrete stress hormones such as cortisol. Pupils dilated, vision improved, all in an effort to identify your dangers. Muscles tensed, preparing the body for fight or flight. Within a split second, you go from being peaceful to ready for combat. Lock, load and fire at will.
Today in our modern world, depsite our housing, clothing technology etc. we are not so far removed physically from our early ancestors. Now instead of being worried about warring tribes and wild animals in the night, we are threatened with tight schedules, over extended lifestyles, and in many cases, over crowding. Our most identifiable stress comes from within as anger, unrealistic expectations, fear and loathing. As with our ancestors, our hearts still beat faster, blood pressure climbs while our blood vessels constrict and stress hormones flood our systems in repsonse to real or percieved dangers. The difference today is that instead of dealing with our stress head on, we are more prone to wallow in self pity and not do anything constructive to fix our situations. Our stress hormones linger in the blood stream, blood cholesterol and sugar rises, and nerve chemicals over flow. It is this stressful stew pot that is linked to the loss of brain power and suppresse ability to fend off infection and numerous diseases, from peptic ulcers, asthma, and colds to cardiovascular disease. Possibly even cancer.
I am no doctor, if you suffer from stress related ailments, you had best see your physician and be prepared to make life style changes for the better. As a nutritional consultant I will tell you how stress and nutrition affect your health and wellness. Stress and nutrition are closely intertwined. When you are deficient nutritionally, you are causing a stress on your body If you do not care enough about yourself to eat nutrionally dense foods within your daily caloric needs, you are personally responsible for your personal stresses which come as a result of malnutrtion. If you live on fast foods, chips, cookies and cakes, you are likely malnourished even if, no, specifically if you are obese. Suboptimal amounts of one or more nutrients place a strain on your body’s metabolic processes which depend on proper nutrition. You are responsible, no one else.
You can not control the jerk blowing his horn in traffic, but you can control what you feed yourself. Even slight deficiencies of iron can reduce the oxygen supply to the tissues and brain. Oxygen deprived tissues will leave you feelig tired, irritable, and uable to concentrate. Likewise, an inadequate intake of B Vitamins places stress on the cell’s ability to convert carbohydrates and fats ito energy. Suboptimal amounts of antioxidants like Vitamin C weaken the body’s antioxidant defenses, exposing the tissues to damage and disease. Bottom line, how well your body is nourished will dictate how it reacts to stress. The better you are nourished, the better you will handle what life throws your way. No matter how you feel right now, this is truthfully under your control.
I am not saying getting your nutrition in order while stressed is easy. Stress affects nutriental needs by reducing absorption, increasing excretion, altering how the body uses the nutrients, or even increasing the daily requirements for certain nutrients. This problem becomes compounded as when folks are stressed, their eating habits are usually at their worse for proper nutrition. Folks who typically diet tend to overeat all the wrong foods when stressed, and even those of us who eat good most all the time can go to crap when times are tough. This is why David’s Way is about “LIFESTYLE” and not a diet. Friends, you are most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies when stressed than at any other time. Hell that could just about go without being said it is so blatantly obvious. Your nutritional deficiencies only serve to make the problem worse before they even begin.
Any type of stress, physical stress from disease or surgery or emotonal stress from losing a loved one to death or divorce, stress from our career choices upset our nutritional balance which in turn makes life worse. If you have a short term temporary stress, you will fare better if your dietary habits already have your body well nourished. You will have less anxiety and your stress is less likely to affect your health and wellness. If you are marginally nourished prior to life handing you a crap sandwich, and if the situation lasts quite some time, you will over tax your body’s ability to handle this high stress period with your poor nutritional status, and your overall health will pay the heavy price.
You have a responsibility to yourself and your loved ones to live well and healthy. Life is never just about the individual as your actions will sooner or later affect those around you. Your family may suffer from your loss of income, someone will have to plan your funeral and manage your estate when you are gone. It is never just about you. Your personal choices in how you conduct yourself, how well you care for your body affects others whether you like it or not. It is a personal choice you make when you wallow in self pity and binge eat your despair away, only to have it return with a vengeance when you step on the scale and see the number has risen. Make the descision today to begin living healthier, to eat nutritious foods instead of sugar laden junk. Make the descicion to learn how to deal with your stress head on and how to create plans how to over come it. Make a descision today to begin a vigorous exercise regimen which will not only improve your body physically, you will find that your mind will improve by leaps and bounds too.
Make a choice to follow us at Davd’s Way. We provide you with nutrition and fitness articles based on science and personal experience. We intersperse healthy recipes within our articles. We promote a high protein, low carbohydrate diet where complex carbs are still highly encouraged while simple refined sugars are strongly encouraged to be avoided at all costs. We want you to eat healthy nutritious foods and that you actually eat enough to meet your daily caloric needs. With your physicians approval of course, we encourage you to adopt a serious exercise regiment that raises your heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes to preferrably an hour, at least three sessions per week. We want you to lose body fat, while only concentrating on getting to a healthy body fat percentage over stressing over achieving a specific number on your scale. We want and encourage you to make a choice to live a healthier life, the choice is yours to make. No excuses…