Vim & Vigor - Summer 2018 - Parrish Medical Center - 30

1

YOUR WEIGHT

When you're stressed, you're more likely to turn to
the fridge for comfort. But it usually doesn't stop
there. "You're also more apt to give up on other
healthy routines like exercise or meditation that help you maintain your weight," says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, psychologist
and author of The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional
Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity.
To make matters worse, cortisol, the primary hormone
released during stress, makes your body retain belly fat,
which can lead to problems such as obesity, diabetes and
heart disease, Greenberg says.
Maintaining your healthy eating habits when stress
strikes requires some planning, but it's definitely worth it.
"When we're stressed and on the go, we're always grabbing
for the easiest thing," Greenberg says. "You can still do that if
you've stocked your kitchen with healthy food and taken a little
time to prepare meals and snacks to reach for."
There are other ways to prepare for a stress onslaught as well,
such as ensuring you're getting enough rest. "Lack of sleep weakens your natural willpower, and it's always harder to watch your
weight when you're sleep-deprived," she says.

2

YOUR HEART

In stressful situations, you may feel your
heart beating faster. Chronic stress can result
in more serious heart trouble, such as high
blood pressure and damaged arteries that can put you at
greater risk of a heart attack.
So, how can you fight stress during a typical workday?
Avoid it when possible, says Mithu Storoni, MD, author
of Stress-Proof: The Scientific Solution to Protect Your Brain
and Body-and Be More Resilient Every Day.
At the office, "treat stress and negativity like a contagion. If something stresses you, leave the office, go for
a walk, let out your emotions, then return when you're
more in control of yourself," she says. "If one person
'catches' your negativity, it spreads just like a virus."
And though working through a stressful situation with
vigorous exercise may seem like a good idea, Storoni says
gentle activity may be more effective at reducing cortisol
levels, and she recommends giving your brain a workout first.
"Immerse yourself in an activity that engages your
executive brain and attention immediately after an
emotionally stressful experience, like a memory game or
Tetris on your smartphone, so your mind can't dwell on
what just happened," she says. "Then do something physical that gently tires you out, like a long, brisk walk."

30

SU M M ER 2018

3

YOUR GUT

When something's wrong, you can often feel it in
your gut (literally). And chronic stress can leave
you with a host of gut problems, from ulcers and
acid reflux to irritable bowel syndrome. It can even increase
your risk of diabetes. When you're under stress, your liver
produces blood sugar to give you energy to get through it.
But if you're chronically stressed, your body may not be able
to keep pace with the continual surge.
What can you do to help keep your gut
(and your blood sugar levels) in
check during stressful times?
Greenberg recommends
ensuring you're getting
healthy probiotics in
your diet-including
fermented foods like
yogurt and kimchi
to promote healthy
gut bacteria-and
focusing on not
overeating, which
can lead to stomach upset and blood
sugar spikes.



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