Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dealing (or Not) with Stress

So it's Day 3 of my plan to reduce sugar consumption significantly by only eating sweets after 8pm and then only in moderation. So far, so good. Yesterday, I had a fantastic time playing hooky (with boss' permission) and attending the PEI ADAPT Council's annual conference. It was all about agriculture on PEI and for the most part, the presentations were inspiring and informative. The day was also filled with food - I arrived after having a breakfast of 1 boiled egg, some spinach and a bowl of yogurt to discover a large assortment of baked goods on offer, along with juices, coffee, etc. I avoided everything. At lunch there were lots of different sandwiches and wraps available, as well as plates of fruit and cheese and...yes...you guessed it...plates of cookies and squares tucked innocently in between the plates of more healthy food. On a separate, rather inconspicuous table, I found a huge pot of hearty beef stew. Again, I avoided temptations!

Oh, but did I mention I grabbed a napkin and wrapped a date square up in anticipation of 8pm? (let the record show that it's now the following night and I've only eaten a bite of the date sqaure). Yes, somehow I managed to not give in to temptation. To be honest, it was easier than I expected. I can't really explain it, except to theorize that I was really just happy to be at the conference and wasn't eating out of boredom or because I was nervous/anxious about anything. Also, storing away a treat for later in the evening made it bearable, because then I didn't have to wonder what I'd missed..I just had to be a little bit patient.

So yesterday was a good day and it wasn't really challenging to avoid sugar. Today, I stepped on the scale at the gym after my workout in the early evening and discovered I've lost 1.6 lbs since my weigh-in on Sunday at around noon. I say that's progress!

But the thing about today, was that I encountered my worst enemy and most persistent companion: Mr. Stress. This year has been slightly hectic and moderately stressful for me - getting robbed in January was a bit rough - yes, it's only stuff, but I miss having access to my laptop, which was filled with photos, music and my writing, and there have been a couple of additional stresses that I have felt unable to control in terms of the outcome of events. It doesn't help that I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about the plight of humanity and the planet as a whole.

So, yeah, Mr. Stress has been hanging around a lot lately. I've let my mindset turn from positive and in the present moment, to negative and fearful of the future and that is simply not good. I strongly believe that what we think and feel is what we bring into existence. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a couple of steps back.... I am quite certain that in the past my weight struggles have ultimately been linked to the level of stress I am managing in my life. When I have been living far away, the lack of familiarity and a safety net (financially and emotionally) resulted in weight gain, regardless of my efforts to loss weight. THe only time I didn't gain weight while living away from PEI was for the first year I lived in Scotland, when I had two of my closest friends with me to lean on if need be. And, oh boy, how I leaned.

I've known, to a certain degree, the impact of stress on my weight for awhile now, but have been perplexed as to how to deal with it. I've tried yoga, I've tried tapping (look it up), journaling, counseling, exercising even more, just chilling out, setting goals, etc. Some of these things have helped, but I can't say that any one or combination of them have been entirely successful.
So today, Mr. Stress started knocking on my door in the afternoon. By the time I got home from the gym, he'd come in on his own and taken the liberty of plopping himself down on my cheerfulness. I went to the pantry. I wanted sugar. An 'a-ha' moment if there every was one. Sugar has become my coping mechanism for stress. Clearly it doesn't work though because given the amount of sugar I have eaten in the past, I should be in a constant Zen-like state. But I've created this thought-emotion-action link that has me unconsciously gravitating towards sweetness when things go a little sour in life.

As noted above, what one thinks/believes is translated into an emotion and then an action. So my thoughts about my current/future situation conjured up emotions of anxiety and stress. My programmed reaction to those emotions is to eat sweets. Ta-da.

Here's the good news. I didn't eat sugar when I opened the pantry. Instead I had a small handful of nuts, then hopped in the shower. By the time I got out, I felt so much better and wasn't craving sugar at all. Then I did my taxes and that resulted in an even better mood :)

So that's where I stand on Day 3. Having encountered my first A-Ha moment, which I kind of, sort of recognized before but had never actually 'caught myself in the act' before. I conquered my automatic response this time with a new behavior to replace the old habit.

I know I'll face this test again and again. I am confident that most times, I will kick butt at passing the test. In the long run, however, I still have much work to do on keeping my mindset positive and being in the present moment. I have to focus on good news, surround myself with happy people, and keep my passions alive. It was so easy to be positive when I lived in Vermont briefly, surrounded by people who were committed to bettering their communities and living a healthy, low-impact lifestyle. Now, back on PEI, I find myself fortunate enough to be in the company of people that are comparably positive, creative, energetic and hard-working.

I'm going to keep my on the ball. Then I won't have time to wallow in negativity or eat a bunch of sweets.

4 comments:

Rob said...

Neuroplasticity! S you can rewire
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFbm3jL7CDI

Rob said...

More http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDTiZpPyqRk&feature=related

The point is S we can create new responses to old stimuli - and so respond to stress in a new way

Shannon Courtney - writer, foodie, eater, cook, thinker, idealistic realist. said...

Thanks Rob, I'll check these out. Yes, the encouraging thing is that we can rewire our responses, nothing is set in stone or static...even gene research is proving old science to be wrong in this regard.

Shannon Courtney - writer, foodie, eater, cook, thinker, idealistic realist. said...

Ok, I watched the videos --- very inspiring! Thanks Rob :)