It is a strange thing—the human capacity to lose sight of what is sometimes best for itself. Stress, age, and all other curve balls that life entails can all contribute to us “losing ourselves.” In some cases, losing yourself follows a major event, either good or bad, or, it can be subtler. Though “losing yourself” comes in different forms, the most notable, and what sparks year-after-year of New Years resolutions, is weight gain. For some people, it was the Freshman Fifteen that snowballed into more weight gained than one would like to admit, or, for others, it was a pound here or there that continues to slowly creep up.
Weight gain alone may either be a contributing factor, or symptom of stress and anxiety associated with any of the many events that life can bring—no matter the breadth or seriousness. Harvard University this summer released a study that focused solely on the unfortunate phenom that is “weight creep.”
The study looked at data from 120,877 U.S. women and men from three large studies of health professionals that tracked changes in lifestyle factors and weight every four years over a 20-year period. The participants were normal weight and healthy when they started. “Over time, they gained an average of 3.35 pounds during each 4-year period for a total average weight gain of 16.8 pounds at the end of the 20-year study,” Reuters reported in a review of the study.
According to the study, foods that added most to weight gain over a four-year period included daily consumption of potato chips (1.69 lbs), potatoes (1.28 lbs), sugar-sweetened beverages (1 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lbs) and processed meats (0.93 lbs).
Whether the consumption came from “emotional eating” or snacking, or “mindless eating,” there are ways to slowly (yes, slowly… frustrating, I know. But, the weight wasn’t gained overnight, and definitely won’t be lost overnight) stop the gain and start the losing process.
In a nutshell, be mindful of what you are putting in your body. Treat yourself right, and you will see the payoff. Of course, sometimes, it is easier to shop the vending machine, but think about how much better “real” food would be for you! Instead of “empty” calories, invest in eating food that has a balance of the necessary goodies: protein, carbs, and fiber (it’ll keep you full for longer!).
Get enough sleep (at least 6 hours)—I know how hard that can be when there seems to not be enough hours in the day as is to complete your to-do list, but it’s important. Days upon days and months upon months of sleep deprivation will not only lead to physical manifestations (increased cortisol levels that will lead to weight gain), but also emotional and mental fatigue.
The end-goal here is to value yourself and to be at peace with the fact that sometimes life will be hard, and often seem uncontrollable—and not trying to maintain control by eating, or munching, the stress away. A side effect of this new mindset will likely be a renewed sense of self and maybe, just maybe, seeing yourself move closer to achieving your goals.