I've never been overweight, but I my weight has fluctuated a lot over the years. I've noticed an extraordinary trend: Every time I go back home or take a relaxing vacation, I come back slimmer. It may seem counterintuitive, since many people are afraid of gaining weight during lazy vacations.
After all, how can giving up green juice, and having more dairy, more sweets (homemade blinchiki crepes), and more bread lead to weight loss?
Well, not everything is as it seems. Let's explore deeper.
There were a few things I did differently while at home:
- I took naps
- I enjoyed treats (ice cream, chocolate, and cake)
- I skipped meals if I felt like it
- I ate only when I was hungry
- I ate without a phone or a laptop and more with my family and friends
- I worked out less and rested more
The combination of these factors might have led to a few important physiological and emotional changes:
1. I had less cortisol and and less adrenaline running through my body.
While visiting my parents, I let go many of my NYC responsibilities. This meant: no running around seeing clients, no traveling in packed subways, and no frantic email checking.
As a result, I felt a lot less stress. When our bodies and minds perceive an environment as stressful, it affects our hormones. That's the way nature ensured our survival. Unfortunately, stress-wise, our bodies don't can't tell the difference between being chased by a lion or chasing after the A train. Stress makes cortisol and adrenaline go up, and turns on our flight or fight mode. As a result, you become wired, hungry, and ready to do whatever it takes to survive. Your body preserves calories for possible drought or starvation.
Less stress allowed my body to calm down and just BE instead of constantly DOING. If you are trying to lose weight, start by evaluating your current stress levels and find a way to relax more to calm down your hormones. Deep relaxation will trump any diet!
2. I carried less water weight because my muscles weren't inflamed.
During the last few vacations, I decided that I'd rest a little more than usual and take some time off from the intense daily workouts. I usually take my exercise band and a jump rope and that's it.
I still do my daily morning yoga but I don't really consider it a workout. My dad and I like to go running along the river in the woods. I also go dancing with my friends, and do youtube videos, and jump rope. However, my workouts are always shorter on vacation than at home and less intense. I take more days off without feeling guilty. As a result my muscles feel more rested, leaner, less inflamed, and not any less toned. If you keep pushing yourself at the gym 5-6 times a week and feel sore, tired, but not any skinnier, take a break. Stretch instead of running, dance instead of doing a bootcamp, breathe instead of pushing yourself. Don't punish your body, show it some love!
3. When relaxed, I ate in-tune with my body.
Quite often overeating and snacking is not caused by true hunger. More often it is an escape route for negative emotions and the lack of positive ones. If we take a moment to listen to the true voice inside, it won't ask for food, it will ask for attention, inspirational stories, fun people, and pleasant experiences. Human connection, exploration of exciting new things, emotional celebrations, and rewarding physical practices fill the need for the positive emotions and reduce the need for snacking.
4. I behaved like a role model.
When visiting my family or going away with my friends, I often feel and behave as a role model. Back at home, I am the carrier of everything healthy. My family and my friends look up to me for tips, advice, and help. I know it and I enjoy it! I can talk about health, food, yoga and relaxation for hours, no days at a time!
When surrounded with people who I know perceive me as a role model, I behave like one. I eat mindfully, when out with my friends or at home with my family. I noticed that I’m more likely to be mindful, not rush, and chew slowly when I’m in my 'healthy role model' role. At home, it turns off sometimes. A lesson learned, even when I’m alone: I will try to behave as I would with my family, friends, and students. I will imagine that you are with me at all times!
It’s funny how doing less not more and relaxing over pushing through can be a lot more effective in achieving desired health and perfect weight.
Creating a practical stress-reduction program at home and staying committed to it can be just as effective as a few relaxing days on the beach.
Guided relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, and massage, can all serve as an at-home relaxation practice that will help your digestion, immune system, and prevent stress-induced weight gain.
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