LA VIDA: Is Stress Making You Fat?

Find Substitutes That Satisfy If we all had the ability to make rational choices—zucchini is better for us than fettuccine—there would be no need for the multibillion-dollar diet industry. Eating can be an emotional action, and it's an addictive one. The average person knows that doughnuts are hand grenades to our health. But we pass by a neighboring cubicle with a dozen cream-filled jobbies, and we've finished three before we've even turned the corner. Experts say that people under the most stress tend to gain the most weight. So it's a double whammy. The exceptions? The super-wealthy stressed, such as actors and CEOs, who can afford nutritionists, chefs and personal trainers! But you don't need all that. And you don't have to starve or deny yourself. Instead, keep healthful contingency foods nearby, things like V8 juice, a handful of nuts, pieces of fruit, cut-up veggies or even a little guacamole. And clear the fridge and pantry of waist-killing goodies.

Walk This Way The root of a physical activity plan is a minimum of 30 minutes of walking a day (broken up into three segments of ten minutes each, if you have to), and then telling somebody about it after you're done (yes, every day, no excuses). You'll do it not only for the physical effects but also for the positive psychological effects, such as an increase in your self-esteem. Walk for 30 minutes—it's easy, doable and maintainable, and it's a first step out of the tornado and back into the game of life.

Be Touched On both a physical and an emotional level, seek out positive interactions with other people. (Remember the chat at the end of your walk.) Evidence shows that increased amounts of oxytocin (known as the "social bonding" hormone) may decrease blood pressure and lower the effects of stress. This raises levels of a substance that helps control your appetite. And research shows you can boost oxytocin levels through an increase in social interaction and touch. Even a massage may help.

Get Lost in Your Mind When you feel the urge to eat, sit and think about your life and what's driving you to pick up a fork or open the fridge. Would you shove that stuff into a friend's or a family member's body? For some, meditation or prayer enhances your power to satisfy the subconscious drive you have.

See the Naked Truth Stand naked in front of the mirror, without sucking in your belly, that is. For most of us, this exercise is as uncomfortable as a coach-class airline seat. But we need to realize that healthy weight is where we want to be, not fashion magazine weight or featherweight. That means we have to get comfortable with the fact that every woman isn't as light as a kite and every man won't have the body of Michael Vick, football star. So look at your body. Next, draw an outline of your body shape, from both the side and front views. Ask your partner or a close friend to look at the shape you drew and tell you honestly if that's approximately what your body looks like. This might be the first time you've ever had to articulate things about what your body looks like, and that's good.

Savor a Bit If you're going to eat something that's bad for you, enjoy it. Savor it. Roll it around in your mouth. We suggest taking a piece of dark, 70 percent cocoa chocolate and meditating—as a healthy stress reliever and as a way to reward yourself with something sweet. It's a small but effective way of feeling good without plummeting and scavenging for any old thing you can find. Bad foods are okay—once in a while.

The June issue of Selecciones magazine offers more tips on losing weight and staying thin. Pick up an issue today!

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