Here's the lowdown on how the economy is making us fat, and what you can do for yourself to fix it.
J.J. Virgin: Ready to hear the latest scary health statistic? A recent Gallup poll shows that the average BMI (body mass index) in the U.S. increased from 25.1 to 26.8, comparing data from the first quarter of last year to the same time period in '09. So what in the world could be causing such a huge jump in only one year?
One conclusion that cannot be ignored is the crazy economic climate over the past 12 months. I'm guessing many of you know at least one depressing story of job or financial loss, or a mortgage nightmare. Heck, I'm guessing the recession has hit your pocketbook, too. So here's the lowdown on how the economy is making us fat, and what you can do for yourself to fix it:
Let's face it, all of us have stress in our lives. But excessive stress whacks our cortisol levels and increases our ability to store fat around our waists. And then, to top it off, high stress levels raise the set point necessary to burn off the fat! Constant worry also lowers serotonin production, which increases the desire to consume sugar and carbs in the form of comfort foods.
What you can do: Exercise! Studies show that yoga, tai chi, and other calming movements lower stress hormones. High intensity interval training (a.k.a., bursting) also helps the body handle stress better and, in the long run, can have a healing effect on the adrenals.
30% of Americans say that they are not sleeping well due to the economy (by the way, I believe that lack of sleep is becoming the number-one health concern in our nation!). Production of hormones ghrelin and leptin are hugely impacted by adequate amounts of sleep. Without proper sleep to regulate these hormones, hunger signals go haywire, causing us to overeat. Lack of sleep directly causes insulin resistance, too, which makes us better at storing fat and, if left unchecked, can also lead to diabetes. Oh yeah, and who feels like exercising after a restless night followed by a low-energy day?
What you can do: Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on getting seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep each night. Turn off the TV and PC a couple hours before bedtime, soak in warm baths with lavender oil, sip a cup of warm chamomile tea at night. These simple steps can work wonders to help you wind down and shut off your brain at night!
Gallup studies also reveal that less than half of us are getting fewer than three days of 30 minutes of exercise a week -- and I really wonder how many are getting none at all! The culprit here is lack of motivation. I'm guessing that if your bank account is tanking, it's really tough to gather up the enthusiasm to head to the gym each morning.
What you can do: Enlist the support of a coach or friend! A partner in your efforts can help you pull out of your hole and boost your social time, another proven key to higher well-being. She will hold you accountable, and make sure you are slowly, but surely, making good on your promises. Not only will your overall feelings of apathy subside, you'll get healthy and fit in the process, too!
|JJ Virgin, PhD, CNS is a celebrity health and nutrition expert, author, public speaker and media personality. She is internationally recognized as the creator of the Weight Loss Resistance Revolutionâ„˘ and trains other health care professionals in her program. JJ is the President of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, nanp.org.|