Posts Tagged ‘insulin’

Control Emotional and Stress-Induced Eating this Holiday Season

Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hormone Weight Loss, Alicia Stanton, MD, offers tips to reduce emotional eating

Enfield, Conn. (November 1, 2011) – The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy, but for some it can be stressful. There’s so much to do and never enough time to do it, and money is tighter than ever for many people. It’s enough to stress out even the calmest personalities and trigger emotional eating. To avoid this annual trap, Alicia Stanton, MD, leading hormone health expert and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hormone Weight Loss, provides some tips to regain control of eating habits and manage stress during the holidays.

“Stress wreaks havoc on our cortisol and insulin levels, which is why during stressful times our bodies crave sweet and starchy foods,” said Stanton. “People who are normally restrained eaters are more likely than others to eat more during times of stress. Stress eating is a way to soothe or suppress negative emotions, but it can really derail weight loss efforts.”

Dr. Stanton offers these tips for combating stress eating:

  • Tame your stress – if stress contributes to your emotional eating, try a stress management technique like yoga, meditation, etc.
  • Check to see whether you’re really hungry – Is your hunger physical or emotional? If you ate recently and your stomach is rumbling then you’re probably not really hungry. Give the craving a little time to pass.
  • Keep a food diary – Writing down what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat and how you’re feeling when you eat, may show a pattern over time revealing your connection between mood and food.
  • Get support – You’re more likely to give in to emotional eating if you lack a good support network. Lean on family and friends or join a support group.
  • Remove temptation – Don’t keep supplies of comfort foods in your home if they’re hard to resist. And if you are feeling stressed or sad, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you’re sure that you have your emotions in check.
  • Don’t deprive yourself – Let yourself enjoy an occasional, small treat to help curb cravings.
  • Get enough sleep – If you’ve tried self-help options, but still can’t get control of emotional eating, consider therapy with a professional mental health provider.

Fat is Your Friend

You’re probably thinking right now, what?! Fat is our friend – since when? This statement comes as a shock because for decades we’ve been told that fat is bad and that low fat is the way to go.
The hype around low fat diets first began in the 1960s. By the 1980s low-fat foods were widely promoted as healthy options and America jumped on the bandwagon. We started eating more processed foods and refined carbohydrates like pasta, rice cakes, cereals, bagels and other baked goods. But to appeal to taste buds, low-fat foods compensated with refined flour and sugar, which has triggered a host of health problems including obesity and diabetes.
Now we know that one of the most basic links between diet and hormones is this: consuming too much refined flour and sugar disrupts hormonal balance by increasing insulin demand. Chronically high levels of insulin contribute to insulin resistance which leads to fat storage. However, eating fat does not trigger the release of insulin. And, contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not cause you to store fat. Healthy fats are necessary for cell function, reduce inflammation, help balance hormones, reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and protect against mood swings and depression.
You know about the healthy sources of fat like fish, nuts and olive oil, but here some other sources of fat that you’ve probably cut out, but really aren’t necessary to:

  • Avocado – yes, avocadoes are high in fat, but high in healthy, monounsaturated fat. Avocadoes have shown to reduce cholesterol.
  • Egg yolks – stop throwing away your egg yolks and stop eating just the whites. Egg yolks are the richest source of choline, which boosts brain function and reduces inflammation. Eggs also promote weight loss and protect eyesight.
  • Milk – it’s okay to have some fat in your milk. You don’t have to limit yourself to just skim milk. Studies have shown that drinking whole milk may be better for building muscle and both – skim or whole – improve cholesterol levels.
  • Red meat – red meat does have health benefits and you don’t have to cut it out entirely. Stick with leaner meats of beef and try to go for grass-fed beef when possible, but it is okay to consume red meat. And don’t forget about other red meats like venison and bison, which are naturally leaner than the cow.
  • Butter – while a healthy oil is a better alternative, I’d rather you use real, unsalted butter than margarine. Margarine has trans fat, which is much worse that the saturated fat found in butter. You can incorporate butter or other healthy oils such as organic ghee (clarified butter) into your meals.

Now I don’t want you to think all fat is good – because it isn’t. You want to focus on high-quality fats, eat  saturated fat in moderation and avoid trans fat at all costs. Trans fat is man-made and the human body has absolutely no physiological need for it. So if you see “partially hydrogenated” oils or shortening listed on an ingredient label put that item back on the shelf and walk away.

How Poor Sleep Effects Our Health, Hormones and Weight

In this country, it is normal for us to work at least 10 hours a day, try to exercise a few hours a week and try to get by on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. We use alarm clocks, coffee, chocolate, soda, energy drinks and many other tricks to help us “push through” the fatigue and get on with our day. Does this sound like you?

What you don’t know is how exceedingly important sleep is and how not getting enough sleep can cause us to gain weight. Just one or two nights of missed or inadequate sleep are enough to make you as insulin resistant as a Type II diabetic! While adequate diet and exercise can help, your physiology will never be normal without enough sleep. At the end of the day, neglected sleep or poor sleep quality is a significant stressor to your body. It compromises your immune system, reduces your memory and makes you gain weight.

In addition to insulin, two other important hormones related to sleep and weight gain are melatonin and prolactin. Known as the “hormone of darkness,” melatonin is secreted in darkness, at night and tells the body it is time to sleep. Prolactin is critical to our immune systems and one of our first lines of cancer defense. Research shows that longer periods of sleep with increased melatonin production enhanced immunity. Long nights also produced higher levels of prolactin. If we get less sleep at night, more prolactin is produced during the day. And if prolactin is secreted during the day, it leads to autoimmunity and carbohydrate craving.

If you put together the imbalance between insulin, cortisol, prolactin and melatonin, you have a recipe for disaster. The biggest problem with short night sleep is that insulin will stay higher in the dark when it should be flat and cortisol falls so late it will come up normally in the morning. This is the reversal of your normal hormone rhythms. You’re supposed to wake up with high cortisol in the morning to deal with the stress of the day and a low insulin so you’re hungry. However, with reversed hormone rhythms it is easy to skip breakfast because your insulin is high and you’re not hungry. The reversal also causes melatonin and prolactin to be too high in the morning and throughout the daylight hours making it difficult to concentrate. By 3:00 in the afternoon you crave carbohydrates, get inpatient and have even more trouble concentrating.

Now do you see why getting enough sleep is so important? It’s more than just resting. It recharges your body, controls appetite, supports the immune system, balances hormones and improves concentration.