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June 16, 2014

It’s Only Weight, After All!

Text by Luke Coutinho

Whether you want to change your life in small or significant ways, lose weight or manage stress, you have the power to do so

Over years of practising as a nutritionist and health coach globally, if there’s anything that clearly stands out as an obstacle when it comes to health or weight loss, it is stress. I have seen men and women stuff themselves with salads and juices and still struggle to fight that fat. I have seen people exercise for over two hours, eat right and sleep less than five hours, and yet struggle to fight fat.

Stress doesn’t only mean work stress or relationship or financial or health stress. There are many things that cause stress to the body at a cellular level. Examples of some of these triggers are eating with guilt, exercising too hard and too much, lack of sleep, improper nutrition, smoking and consuming excessive alcohol, emotional turmoil and over-eating.

And the list goes on. Something as small as being unable to forgive can cause immense stress to the human body. Some of this stress, we don’t feel, but it slowly eats into us, biting away pieces of our being. Stress lowers and destroys our immune system and allows our body to be open to contracting dangerous germs and diseases leaving us feeling lethargic and fatigued, which further leads to indigestion, bloating, acidity amongst other ailments, which we then diagnose as sickness and begin the vicious cycle of popping pills. In many cases, this results in depression and then the popping of sleeping pills, which further slows down the metabolism and becomes an obstacle to weight loss or feeling healthy.

If we can work on identifying our stress triggers and managing them with awareness, the whole game changes. We will always have some stress in our lives. Who doesn’t? But how we handle it, puts us on the road to great health.

Over the years, from working with people who have cancer and other deadly diseases, to working with the average person who just wants to lose weight, I have found that 90 per cent or more of my job revolves around working with their minds. You can write out the best diet plan, but will it be followed?

If there is any tool that I swear by in the whole counselling and healing process, it is none other than gratitude. This simple yet powerful word has and will continue to change lives. In our hectic existence, we fail to find time to be thankful for the little things. We are consistently focussing on how fat we are, or how sick we are, or how much our knee or back hurts. If we think we are fat, we will be fat. If we think we are sick, we will be sick. We run around searching for organic food, which is a good thing, and we make attempts to eat the cleanest and best quality food, and yet we forget to offer thanks or be grateful for what we eat.

Using gratitude to change all of this is magical and powerful. Many books have been written on the subject of gratitude and the benefits it brings. If you are sick, try focusing on everything else in your body that is working well. For example, you have your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your nose to smell, and offer thanks for that. It keeps your attention off the illness and you begin to recover faster. Studies have shown that acts of thankfulness and appreciation trigger more ‘happy’ hormones, lower blood pressure, decrease the perception of pain, increase sleep time and quality, encourage relaxation, decrease stress, lower depression symptoms and increase overall energy.

Here’s an exercise for you to do: write down on a piece of paper, all the things that you are grateful for in regards to your health. Write this from your heart. Really feel what you pen down. You will realise you are far better off than most people. You will learn to count your blessings and when you start doing that, you automatically induce powerful change in your life.

If you are struggling to lose some weight, stop thinking about it for a while and instead be grateful that you have a pair of healthy legs to walk or run with, or work out with, and you have a mind that you control, that you can discipline to eat clean and in small portions. Think of everything but your weight and offer thanks because it’s just a weight problem you have, someone out there somewhere is probably dying of a disease, or having a leg amputated.

When it comes to your health, aim to reduce or manage effectively all the stress triggers discussed earlier using the attitude of gratitude. You have work stress, means you have a job or some business. You have relationship stress, means you have a relationship, work to make it better. You have poor health, at least you had good health before, now offer thanks and strive to get back that good health. The cure is never in the pill; it’s in your mind.

The next time you are stressed, take two sheets of paper. On one write down all the things that stress you out and on the other, count your blessings or write down all the things that you are grateful for. After you do this exercise, you will find that your blessings outweigh your stress, and that in itself is motivation to pick yourself up and get back on track with whatever your goal may be. If you are making attempts to eat clean, sleep well, and stay physically active, be grateful for each day that passes where you have made even just an inch of progress.

Gratitude is a simple route to get your life back on track. Most problems in life exist because we chose to focus on them. And it’s not just the idea of focussing on the problem, but rather focussing on the ‘negative’ part of it, getting stuck or obsessed with it and closing the door to seeing the ‘big picture’. If you are consistently complaining about things, now’s the time to make that change. Start looking more for things that you appreciate. Focus on the positives, and your life will change..

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