Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

woman eatingYou want to lose weight and know what you need to eat. But does stress make it harder to actually make healthy food choices?

Let’s say you are under stress at work. You have to pass a series of exams to get that needed promotion. So much rides on you making the grade. During your study time,  you reach for a snack. You can choose a big red apple or a thick fudge brownie. Did I mention you want to lose weight?

You go for the brownie! Self-control seems to vanish!

Brain scans now give us a clue why this is. According to a study in Neuron, stress impacts the brain’s decisions.

Think of the brain like a neural network composed of  many connections. All those connections are communicate with one another. When you experience stress, the communication in the brain changes. The signal to eat the brownie gets louder.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, activates taste; the immediate reward of that tasty brownie demands your attention; the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and judgment are weakened.

What happens then is that your desire to lose the pounds goes out the window because your brain is shouting go for the tasty brownie. The more stress, the weaker the brain connections in the long term planning areas. The quick brownie fix wins!

Stress sets the stage for eating those high calorie foods. So all the good intentions in the world may not be enough to overcome stress eating if you are not aware that your self-control is decreasing. Of course, you always have a choice, but understanding how the brain is geared to pull you to the unhealthy snacks helps explain why we eat those foods under stress.

Important then, if you want to lose weight, deal with stress! Lowering your stress allows those brain connections to communicate better and process tastiness, value judgments and long-term planning so you can go for the apple instead of the brownie. Less stress, better self-control.

If you want to lose weight, manage your stress! It appears that stress influences taste and self-control.

 

For more, Press Pause Before You Eat by Dr. Linda Mintle

 

I was listening to HLN the other day as I was driving home from work and heard a show about Harvard University’s humanist chaplain. I went to Harvard’s chaplaincy page and found this description, “The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard is dedicated to building, educating, and nurturing a diverse community of Humanists, agnostics, atheists, and the non-religious at Harvard and beyond.”

The list of religious chaplains on Harvard’s page included many, but I was a bit stunned that humanism was listed as a religion. I was taught (consistent with the dictionary) that humanism is a philosophy, without theism. Chaplains are persons called by God. And this humanistic “chaplain” admitted their goal was to eliminate God from the picture. But at Harvard, humanism is listed along side all the religions.

The “chaplain” went on to explain that the focus is to help people to be good without God. But in that conversation was also the belief that religion harms people.

Harvard is the oldest university founded in America (1636). It was founded with the purpose to educate clergy and perpetuate education from a Christian perspective. It’s shield bears the Latin motto that means “truth.”

And interestingly, this contemporary move to help people be good without God is the oldest sin first established in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they believed they could be good without God. This is the definition of pride. It is, as C.S. Lewis points out,  a complete anti-God state of mind.

With pride, one rejects God’s Word and His goodness. This rejection leads to the belief that goodness is attainable without God. That we are inherently good, the root of humanism. Humanism is a growing reliance on self, a dependence on one’s strength and wisdom.

Pride is about self-sufficiency, self-importance and self-exaltation. C.S. Lewis calls pride a “spiritual cancer. It eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment or eve common sense.” And God removed his creation from the garden because of it. So if you want to be good without God, then form an organization or a club, but don’t call it religion, especially if you believe religion is harmful and your goal is to remove God from the picture.

stressedEvery day, just living our lives, we face a number of opportunities to test our character. Often, our true self comes out in the small things; the everyday trials, frustrations or simple irritations. It’s in those moment, we see ourselves for who we really are and can decide if we need to make changes. Do we become easily offended, stressed, upset and sweat the small stuff? Do we go bananas over bananas? Let me explain!

I go to the grocery store to buy bananas.

I pay for them, drive home, put away my groceries only to find there are no bananas in my bags–seriously? the bag boy missed my bananas!

Now I can respond to this several ways.

  • Being the calm, full of compassion, and understanding psychologist, I can say, “Oh the bagger forgot my bananas, well, mistakes happen, it’s ok.
  • I could get really angry and say, “Man, you can’t depend on anyone to do anything right these days.
  • I could swear to never go back to that store again. NO bananas, NO business!
  • I could just swear and call the clerk all kinds of names.
  • I could obsess on my lost bananas all day and ruminate on the fact that now I have no bananas and no time to return to the store.
  • Hey, I could just go bananas!

It’s a small stress, a small grievance, a source of irritation, but my response to it can move me forward in my day or get me emotionally stuck. Small stuff can add up to big problems if left unchecked. Anger from constant frustrations prompt more anger and does damage to the physical body and one’s spiritual health.

Now banana frustration is relatively minor and honestly I don’t see too many people in counseling over this. I don’t run Banana Loss support groups, But frustrations happen everyday and we can become emotionally stuck if our response arouses us and brings on more anger. The key here is to approach the small stuff with grace and respond well. Our mental health depends on it!

So for  every “banana” in your life, remember, it’s only a banana and not worth the upset it may cause.

 

teen girl upsetFor 7 years my husband and I experienced infertility. I was poked and prodded more times than I ever care to recall. All the testing came back with no known cause to our infertility. We were among the 4% of couples in the undefined category. At first, it was easy to trust God and believe for a miracle. But as months rolled by, the pain of childlessness grew more intense.

I knew 7 women who were also struggling with infertility. In about 2 years time, all of them conceived except me. The pain grew even greater. One day, I was doing great, the next on the verge of depression. It was a chronic, open ended loss that had no know ending. That made it difficult. And I did ask why.

Like in the story of Job, people were happy to explain the reasons to me. But the WHY took me no where. The question I did have to answer was, “Would I give in to the loss and become emotionally stuck or would I trust God no matter what the present looked like.” After all faith is what I didn’t see.

How I dealt with this loss was what mattered to God.

Did I believe HE could give me children when for years, nothing but a miscarriage happened.

Would I still serve Him if children were not in my future?

Would I give in to depression and negative thinking?

Would I give in to anger and become bitter?

Would I believe that His ways are higher than my ways

Loss often brings us to a crisis of faith. It puts what we truly believe on the line. Cliches and platitudes no longer work. It takes intention to put into action the words of the Gospel. Here is what helps:

1) Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t pretend that because you are a Christian you don’t feel the pain of emotional wounds and hurts.

2) Embrace the pain. It hurt and I acknowledged it. I didn’t walk around pretending I was fine. I wasn’t. Mother’s Day was horrible. Baby showers seemed cruel. I was in pain.

3) Allow  your pain to turn you towards God. God allowed biblical Job to cry out in pain and even blame him for a world His creation messed up. As Philip Yancey points out, God was not on trial in the book of Job, Job was on trial for his faith.

4) Become desperate for God and begin to move in His power. We overcome trials by the Holy Spirit living in us. As we develop deeper intimacy with Him, he matures us through the fire to be used for His glory. He wants to empower you and make you effective for His kingdom. Move in Him.

5) Have faith. Faith is what we don’t see. There was a critical time in the seven year process of infertility. I came to the place where I had to trust God. and believe by faith. God  said the plans I have for you are good. When I surrendered completely to God and gave up my will for His, He began to move powerfully in my life–He fulfilled my desires, not in the way and time I first saw fit, but in His perfect way and timing. I know I serve a God who takes my pain and transforms it for His glory.