Ever wonder why you unconsciously turn to food? Whether it is bills to pay, a fight with an ex, a dispute with your supervisors at work or worrying about your kids, these things seem to trigger something that has you opening the refrigerator door — again.
Something in the back of your mind tells you that are you turning to food for comfort and that you shouldn’t be following the pattern, right up until you toss the empty pint of ice cream into the recycle bin.
In 1990 only 4 states had obesity rates over 10 percent (body mass index of 30+). Now, 26 years later, every state in America has an obesity rate of over 20 percent! If you live in Arkansas, West Virginia or Mississippi that rate is sadly over 35 percent. What happened?
This trend is nothing short of alarming, and the shocking part is that our population is more into dieting and exercise than in any other point in our history. People are scrambling to lose weight. Entire TV shows are dedicated to eating healthy and how to create health-minded dishes at home, book after book comes out with special ways to lose weight and even apps are developed to keep your waistline slim. But nothing is working.
Scientists have been researching this phenomena for over 20 years, in clinical settings and in controlled studies to figure out exactly what the underlying causes are, and most importantly, what we can do to fix them.
The answer that not many people are aware of is that the No. 1 cause of obesity is stress. To understand this we need to understand how we are experiencing stress like never before. Generally speaking, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. To be more practical, stress is a nervous system response to external circumstances or objects that require some sort of change. It is the product of living off of the earth in an artificial environment. In short, everything we do and experience in our modern world causes various forms of stress.
When your cell phone goes off, that is a form of stress. When you are rushing to get somewhere in your car, that is also stress. Watching the news causes stress. All day long we experience very mild forms of stress and quite often very acute, intense levels of stress. Is this stress a big deal? And how does this relate to gaining weight?
Let’s go back a few thousand years. When our ancestors were alive there were only infrequent and intense forms of stress that demanded a biological response. There were tigers, wars, and famine, but no cell phones, cars or cubicles. Our ancestors would experience a life-threatening stress that often meant that there would be no food available for some time. How did their body respond? By stimulating a strong impulse to eat as much food as possible so that they could store up fuel. It was a survival mechanism for the species, plain and simple.
This hard wiring will take many, many generations to change and adapt to. Research is underway to speed up the adaptation process so that the non-life-threatening stresses that occur many times a day do not trigger an eating response. Much of this new research involves brain scanning and mapping, genetic sequencing and guided self-hypnosis.
In the meantime a simple technique through hypnosis or meditation can relax and soothe your autonomic nervous system. At the start of each day, find a quiet comfortable space to sit and engage in a short meditation.
While closing your eyes and sitting with a straight back, simply go through all of the different things that will occur throughout the day and say to yourself, “None of these are life-threatening nor pose an immediate danger to myself and others, therefore I will stay calm and collected when the small challenges of life present themselves.” Doing this hypnosis or meditation every morning for 10 minutes may cut your urge to eat in half !