Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Stress Connection

"We are all powerful, creative people & can manage our mind & body connection at very high levels, within the 24 hours we are given..... if we are willing to do so"...Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht

I hear plenty of sagas about plenty of things & having enough time to manage stress is probably one of the biggest. My favorite patient statement is, "I'm too stressed to manage my stress." The truth of the matter is that the body needs the release & the mind is ready, willing & able to assist. Now, if the body owner doesn't set the rules for the stress-release, then the mind will choose & usually it's not a healthy way. In addition, since no correction came from the body owner, the mind will continue doing the same. This is partly how addiction & emotional/stress eating come to be so powerful.

Not all disorderly eating is stress-eating & Aida is an example of someone who has both issues. Aida designs webpages & works from home. When I met Aida, her goal was to lose weight. At five foot one, she was already over two hundred pounds & gaining steadily. She made no secret of the fact that she loved to cook & she loved to eat & spent a good part of her day doing both.

Her clients loved to stop by her home office because it was always filled with wonderful aromas, as well as samples of whatever on the menu, for Aida had no rules as far as food was concerned. Fruit sat on the counter, next to homemade biscotti. There were no rules for food choices, portion sizes or eating times. According to Aida, this is the way she grew up & how she viewed normal.

What she didn't consider "normal", was her stress or emotional eating. Once it became dark outside, Aida became dark inside. As soon as the dinner dishes were done, she headed for bed & the television. The stash was beautifully presented on a side-tray, even with a linen napkin. The anticipation of release was over-whelming. She thought about it often during the day, even planning what would prepare for the stash. Sometimes she cooked something special, just for that purpose. According to Aida, it was better than sex. The only person she had to please was herself & she delighted in it. The level of her stress didn't seem to change the level of the stash or binge. This was a regular, nightly ritual that served the purpose of release.

It was quite a different story for Elissa. She could go days & even weeks without emotional eating on her own. However, when she was in the office, she couldn't stay out of the kitchen. But according to Elissa, everyone did it & if she didn't do it, then she would be considered "out of the pack." As she explains it, "our office is a very stressful place & if we didn't have our candy, cookies & cake, we would all go mad." I met Elissa at a workshop that she attended because she was beginning to notice changes from all of the daily sugar. In addition, she didn't feel hungry for healthy foods & this was beginning to frighten her. On weekends, she felt better, but when Monday rolled around, it was back to stomach aches, irritable bowel, anxiety & even pure panic disorder.


Both Aida & Elissa have emotional eating issues & even though the disorders present themselves differently, each will benefit from the same techniques & suggestions. When writing a book or a CD/mp3 program, one doesn't have the benefit of face to face assessment, but as the writer, I can place critical questions & awareness tools that will allow each individual reader/listener to enter their own life experiences & to take their harvest to the technique. This I call Interactive Self-Hypnosis.

It's important to differentiate between physical & emotional or psychological stress, the reason being that each needs to be taken care of separately. It's important for every individual to eat a properly balanced diet that takes into consideration their individual needs. Some of these include family or personal medical history, body weight, lean body mass size & body fat percentage, as well as exercise levels. Viewing the body as a car, if the right amount of gas isn't in the tank, then the car won't go.

When a person has a high body fat percentage, the lean body mass is going to be small. Their physiology is set up to burn sugar & not to burn fat. The lean body mass IS the fat-burning machine & so it needs to be built up. Unless this is clearly presented, the individual will continue to burn lean body mass & to become even fatter than before. This is what happened to Aida. When she came to my office she was 62% body fat & her lean body mass only weighed about 85 pounds. In other words, her lean body mass was anorexic.

There are also other things to consider. When there is no eating discipline, the hormones that manage the blood sugars become way out of balance & sometimes, like in the case of Elissa, the appetite signals change & usually not for the best. When there is no discipline the body enters food stress & even more stress chemicals are produced. We can notice this in both Aida & Elissa. When we look at the family & personal medical history, we can also find other reasons for the body not burning fat. And so, while our readers/listeners usually don't have a PhD in nutrition, they still need to understand how their body works & what they are responsible for doing.

Once their physiological needs are met, Aida & Elissa are ready to work with healthy emotional release tools. In my work these include mental biofeedback, emotional & thought management. Images, or hypnotic suggestion are going to be very useful here. In mental biofeedback, each woman will learn how to communicate with their body sensations. This is key in managing both the production of stress chemicals & the diminishing of them. They will also re-program their body to alert them "earlier". This will allow them the opportunity to release stressors "in the moment", instead of storing them, like in Aida's case, until she climbs into bed with her "stash." Aida began to learn that her daily thoughts about the "stash party" were attempts by her body to alert her to an increased level of stress.

NEXT BLOG - Managing Thoughts & Emotions.