Our client is not the only whose jobs are paying them not only in dollars but in pounds as well. And it's not just in the US. A study from Finland showed that overworked, overstressed employees were more likely to put on weight.
Stress from too much work, or simply too much to do, can lead to overeating. Food is a distraction, and, it can be calming and soothing. We don't hear our clients talk about how they binged on grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, though, for these foods do not cause a surge in serotonin like sweet or starchy carbs do. But bingers beware: too much fat and you can turn into a zombie and the serotonin "burst" is more like a gentle wave. "After my evening eating, all I could do was lie on the couch. I was comatose!" continued Jane. Not mention heavier than she'd ever been.
To better cope with her stress, Jane ate a handful of pretzels, half a bagel, one or two 100-calorie pack snacks, or a package of granola bars just before leaving the office. She no longer needed to eat her way to oblivion in the evenings.
And she lost weight.
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And while dark chocolate has been in the spotlight for it's healthy anti-oxidant benefits and the arrival the new eco-friendly bars, hot chocolate mixes, ice creams and other desserts containing organic ingredients from the rain forests of Central American, Southeast Asia, and Africa.
Chocolate may have it's own mood-enhancing properties, and the fat in most chocolate could be soothing to anyone, but it's the sugar in chocolate that boosts brain serotonin that calms the dramatic mood swings and irritability of PMS and controls the increased appetite that so often increases at this time of the month. It appears that the symptoms are a result of hormonal fluctuations that affect serotonin and it's effect on appetite and mood.
We're not going to tell you you can't enjoy a bite or two of gourmet or full-fat chocolate once in a while. (Try telling that to someone at their PMS worst). And we're not recommending a fat-free diet. What we are trying to tell you is that you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as it's fat free chocolate cake. You won't damage your diet in the process.
We tell our clients who must have chocolate to look for the following:
No Pudge! Fudge Brownie Mix
Homemade hot chocolate made with fat free milk and dark cocoa (alkali-processed tastes best)
Skinny Cow, Healthy Choice, and other supermarket fat free/low fat frozen desserts
Fat free chocolate breakfast cereals
Popcorn drizzled with fat free chocolate syrup (look for those without high fructose corn syrup)
You can also surf the web for lots of fat free chocolate recipes.
We offer these suggestions for those who cannot live without chocolate and who would otherwise abort their dieting efforts were they required to forgo these treats once in a while.
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Sigh. Wouldnít we all like to be in his position except that we would probably have to give up our day jobs to join him. What is so interesting about his description of his daily snack intake is that it sounds so much like a list of binge foods. We have had clients who claim to binge yet could not consume as much food as the marathoner.
There are clinical definitions of a binge and indeed there has been a lot of newspaper coverage of binge eating disorder lately as the latest addition to the list of eating disorders. But for the most of us, a binge is not a psychiatric disorder. Rather, it is a time when we allow ourselves to go a little out of control. We may eat 4 or 5 cookies rather than the one we intended to eat. Or polish off the bag of potato chips when we planned on eating only a handful. The leftover brownies, the almost full quart of ice cream, the half of an apple pie, the broken cookies from a baking session disappear into our mouths without us really intending to eat as much as we do.
Binges happen. Sometimes our emotions just make us lose control and eat more than we intended to and eat the wrong foods. So if it happens, accept it, go back on the diet and when you are feeling calm, see if you can figure out what might have been the trigger. And in the meanwhile, keep eating carbs as we recommend on the Serotonin Power Diet.
Because if you keep eating your carbs every day, there is a good chance the binges will stay away.
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On my way home, I realized that when I was in the gym I felt fat and when I was giving my talk, I felt positively thin. And I wondered how much our motivation to lose weight and to exercise might be influenced by the size and fitness of those with whom we spend most of our time. If I feel lazy during my workout and think of quitting early, all I have to do is look at the sweating vigorous people around me and feel shamed into continuing my own exercise. On the other hand, I imagine if I lived or worked with people who were not terribly concerned with what they ate, or weighed, or keeping fit, I might adopt their lifestyle and become less disciplined in my food choices and exercise regimen.
I think this is why it is so hard to lose weight if people with whom you work or those at home donít understand the importance of your lifestyle changes. In fact, one of the benefits of going to weight loss support groups is that for a few hours each week, others understand what you are going through and applaud your accomplishments. Having a "buddy" go through a weight loss program with you is an enormous help. If there is no one nearby, find a friend or relative who will do it with you long distance. Use e mail and a cell phone or digital camera to track your progress, discuss your problems and rejoice over your success. And be sure to follow our 12 week road map to weight loss because although we canít be there with you personally, we have been there and understand what you are going through.
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You may still decide that supplemental therapy could be of benefit. If so, the list of treatment options includes hormones, vitamins, enzymes, herbs, and minerals including formulations specific to ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and homeopathy. Hormone therapy (estrogen alone or an estrogen-progesterone combination) can be either synthesized de-novo (synthetic) or so-called bio-equivalent which means means it is derived from a plant source such as wild yams or soybeans and therefore thought to be closer to a human form. 5-HTP and L-tryptophan, serotonin precursors, are also used but are most effective in combination with starchy or sweet carbohydrates which allow the precursors to enter the brain where serotonin is made.
With all of these therapies, however, there is risk involved. For example, hormone therapy is associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular events, and the contents of some "natural" remedies are not scrutinized by appropriate health regulation agencies nor are they often evaluated in reputable clinical trials, so both the risk and benefit can be questionable. At any rate, therapeutic choices must be made individually and with a qualified health care provider.
Our advice is to keep it simple and safe. After all, relief is indeed only a bowl of oatmeal away.
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