Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fight or Flight it's How We Roll

We are designed with a wonderful system of survival. Our bodies have a built in reaction to danger, (STRESS), called fight or flight. When we are threatened, (STRESSED), we have a choice to fight back or to run away.  Before we became civilized, there wasn't much that caused stress that wasn't dangerous. To fuel that fight or flight reaction, the body released calories, (Sugar), to our cells so they could take care of business and the required business was physical and we needed the turbo boost of fuel. The stress was generally short lived, we either won the battle or got away.

Now we have stress coming at us from all sides and it can stay with us for a long time. Our bodies can't tell the difference between mental and physical stress. When your boss, spouse, child, bills ect... cause you stress, your wonderful body responds with what it can understand to help you, more calories are released for you to take care of business. Even though you didn't react physically your body now has you craving food to replace what it thinks you used to defeat or run from the attacking beast, that it thinks you just faced.

The fact that there is no physical threat is not relevant to the body, stress requires preparing for action.  So what happens here, with our body thinking we are in danger but our stress is just us having a bad day at work?  We will start craving food to replace the calories our body just released to allow us to deal with the danger. This is why so many people eat as a reaction to stress and can't understand why they are so helpless to resist food when they are upset.

You can be ready with a plan to counter the cravings when they hit. The cravings will come and go quickly, you just have to wait them out. A walk, a trip to the restroom to wash your hands, having some water, or calling a friend can help you, anything that keeps you busy till that craving passes. What you don't want to do is think well I'll just eat a little bit, that isn’t happening, try stopping once you start, you can eat for about 20 minutes before your brain gets the message that your tummy is full.  If the stressful situation is around a meal time go ahead and have your meal and eat it slowly and chew it well, small bites so it will last longer and get you through the cravings without over eating.

Another interesting side affect is what happens to our training when we are stressed.  Being stressed will tire us out. Our body has been in action mode, nothing happened and later when we want to exercise and release some stress we don't have much energy left.  Our body not only wants food it wants rest. We had to fight or flee so we are tired.  That's why when we are going through long periods of stress it seems that we don't have the energy for anything.  We don't, our body has been in battle mode and we have nothing left but the cravings for food and rest.  Does that sound familiar when you are really stressed out?

One of the advantages to doing your workouts in the mornings is you turbo charge your metabolism with vigorous exercise. Since your body is already releasing stored fuel for your increased metabolism it isn’t so effected by normal stress. You are usually more relaxed after working out so you are more relaxed during the day to. If we could get some good exercise when ever we feel stress we would have the best of all situations. We would have a way to work off the stress and the fuel to keep us going strong. That’s why if it’s possible to take a brisk walk when your stress level gets to much you can deal with it better.

Knowledge is power.  By knowing that when you are stressed your body is reacting to it as though you are in physical danger, then you can be ready to deal with it more positively.  Next time you get in a stressful situation, you can be better prepared if you know what to expect.

Thanks for reading.


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