Weight Loss and Stress

Are you working harder than ever at the gym only to see the scale go up? Don’t underestimate the power of stress to thwart all your good work. Stress is more than just a string of hard days. It is also a reaction to calorie restriction or change of diet. Couple that diet with twice weekly wind sprints, and your body can get overwhelmed with just coping. Losing weight, especially after 40, is not so simple a formula as Calories – Exercise = Perfect Shape.

Stress comes in many forms. Some of it is helpful, like weightlifting for building muscle, but fighting traffic all the way home will not make anyone a better person. Caring for toddlers makes them better people, but will wear down the best mother. Environmental toxins in water, air and food are often overlooked, although they can significantly strain the body’s systems. A radical new diet can be harder on the body than a bout with the flu once you add the mental stress of change to the physical stress of starvation. Getting angry when the body predictably goes into conservation mode adds even more burden.

Stress triggers cortisol to handle an immediate stressor. But when the stress continues, the related adrenaline levels impact insulin production, which promotes sugar cravings, fluid retention and weight gain. While a good, solid workout or game of basketball can be a good way for a man to blow off steam, a woman’s body isn’t geared for adrenal response. When cortisol floods her system, the nurturing hormone oxytocin is produced as a relaxation mechanism and metabolism slows. In order to continue to lose weight, she must choose gentler strategies like a yoga class or walking to counteract the stress first. Listen to your body: if you are overwhelmed, sometimes a lovely candlelit dinner is more productive than another bout of exercise.

The body needs an occasional break from emergency mode so it can get down to the necessary business of taking out the trash and doing regularly scheduled maintenance. Hormone shifts with age or chronic sleep loss can trigger insulin resistance, which means the body is less able to deal with insults. Approaches to health need to adapt with age and stress levels.

The new norm has to become intentionality and long term achievements. Instead of setting ultimatums with your body that, come Monday, I will start the Couch to 5K program and go ketogenic – just make a commitment to swap out one bad habit for a better one. Substitute a cheese stick or a big bunch of grapes for that bag of Skittles at the 3pm slump. Even a small thing can compound over time. As that substitution becomes part of your routine and a new idea appears that sounds good, add it at that time. But beware of succumbing to the “one new thing per week” schedule temptation; it merely hits the reset button on the stress spiral.

Like most success, it’s really about effective management. One step at a time toward your health goals. Don’t sweat the days that go up in flames; just get back on track tomorrow. Small, intelligent steps done routinely will soon result in better health that is permanent.

What is Naturopathy?

The naturopath is a generalist, trained in methods of drugless healing.

What is naturopathy, and what does an ND do?  Well it’s not a white coat and stethoscope wearing, strip you naked, send you for tests and charge you your entire paycheck physician.  A naturopathic doctor is actually a teacher, helping a client (not a patient) to take responsibility for his own health, using naturally occurring substances and methods to encourage the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.  

A naturopathic doctor doesn’t diagnose specific diseases. There are no needles or invasive procedures. The goal of naturopathy is to recognize weaknesses and imbalances in the body, remove barriers to good health and tailor therapies to restore health and encourage optimal wellness.  

Every person is unique, and “one size fits all” approaches are insufficient. Traditional healing approaches are time-honored and, combined with modern science, facilitate healing of the entire system of mind, body and spirit.  Essential oils are all the rage right now, for good reason.  They are powerful, but can be too much for some people.  Homeopathy is better suited for toddlers and sensitive people, or those who might not be able to swallow pills. Nutrition and fitness are important for everyone, but may look different for each person. Some people respond better to cups of herbal tea at intervals through their day to break stress patterns and refocus their mind and body on healing; others may need specific supplements, a fitness plan and an accountability partner.  What matters is what’s appropriate for YOU.

The vast majority of illness is not genetic; it is not your parents’ fault that you are sick. Too often, though, the family tendency toward a particular weakness can be traced to Grandma’s recipe box.  We are all creatures of habit and tradition, and comfort foods can literally be the death of us if not well chosen. But as anyone who’s attempted a strict diet can attest, stress cannot be underestimated. Stress is often a problem in itself, causing a cascade of chemical issues in the body.  All these factors can be addressed, and what you thought was just normal aging can often be reversed.

The best method of care is what you believe in.  I’ve seen allergies cured by chiropractic and physical injuries healed with homeopathy. The trauma physician, nutritionist and pastor have their own important roles to play in health. The naturopath is a generalist, trained in methods of drugless healing.

Over the years, I have come to recognize certain intangible qualities that I invariably see in my successful cancer patients. These include an enormous capacity for faith, a quality of trust, fearlessness even in the face of death, and gratitude.  I believe I have seen these four qualities in every single patient I have treated who did well.  – Nicholas J. Gonzalez, MD