Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Quit the Guilt and Get Over It!

My mom worked
Is it just me or is guilt at an all-time high right now?  We feel guilty for splurging on all those sweet treats during the holidays, loading up on comfort foods during the winter, and spending more time lounging in warmth rather than getting out to exercise in the cold.  To make matters even worse, a study has come out over the weekend that children with working mothers are linked to being overweight or obese.  According to the government-funded study, for every five months a mom worked, her child had an average of nearly one extra pound.  This study is frustrating because it shows a correlation, but it does not mention anything about cause and effect.  A working mother is not directly to blame for an obese child – it is likely the lifestyle due to a hectic work and home schedule – fast food over freshly prepared meals, later bedtimes (erratic sleep is a risk factor for obesity), lack of exercise as a family due to other commitments.  While this study didn’t offer any solutions, it does offer awareness.  It can open our eyes to the potential for change and to get healthy now.

So you’re a working mother who stops for fast food occasionally, so you gained a few pounds over the winter, so you haven’t heard yourself breathe heavily since you put up your Christmas tree?  The more guilt and stress that mounts, the less likely we are to get back into shape.  That’s right – when we are under stress, our bodies react in a “fight or flight” response.  This response alters our minds and bodies in a way that can actually pack on the pounds.   Stress causes our bodies to release cortisol – a hormone that increases blood sugar.  Too much cortisol can actually lower metabolism making it even harder to lose weight.  Plus, high levels of stress have been linked to added abdominal fat (as I posted in my previous entry, the most dangerous fat cells are the ones around our middle because they are the ones linked to higher triglycerides and increased risk for heart disease).  So, packing on the guilt may actually lead to packing on the pounds.  My advice is to simply accept what has been done and move on from here.  
I completely understand that no one is immune to stress and guilt in today’s non-stop world.  However, everyone is capable of dealing with the stress and minimizing the guilt.  My advice? 
  • Go for a walk with the entire family before or after dinner – leave the cell phones at home.  Reconnecting can help you unwind.
  • Exercise in the morning before everyone else gets up.  A 20-minute sweat session can be enough to perk up your mood for a whopping 12 hours.  It may also be as effective as medication for treating depression in some people.  And exercise can lead to changes in the brain that strengthen your resolve against stress.
  • Don’t have time to get in a morning workout, play a video sports or dance game with the entire family before bed.  Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.
  • Pick one day a week as your “shop & prep” day.  Go to the grocery and take the time as soon as you get home to store fresh, healthful options on the shelves closest to eye level.
  • Allow each child to pick something from the produce section and then plan a meal around it.  Keep a calendar of meals posted in the kitchen so everyone can look forward to the night their ingredient is featured.  
  • Prepare make-ahead meals on your day off to have for the rest of the week.  It’s faster and cheaper that a drive-thru, and much more healthful.  (Note: I offer prepared meals for those who simply don’t have the time or patience to make it yourself.  See www.coachdconsulting.com/studio.html)
  • Clear the cupboards of junk food, or at least keep them out of eyesight.  No need to test your willpower and you avoid the guilt that follows.
Please keep in mind that I am not here to judge anyone.  I am the product of a working mother who held multiple jobs at once and we were always on the go.  I have fought my own weight for many years.  So, I encourage you today to go and free yourself of the guilt.  You can make smart decisions and do the best you can.  I am proud of you just for trying! 

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