How Stress Affects Your Weight

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An alternate title for this post could have been: “How I Managed to Finish a Degree in Food and Nutrition and Gain 30 Pounds While Doing It.”

The last 2.5 years have been really really good but also really really crazy. I started going back to school in January 2014 on a part-time basis. At the time, I was personally unhappy, work was crazy busy, and I was trying to fumble my way through a chemistry class (the only class I almost failed in high school, FYI). I eventually shifted my work and school schedules around to try to make things easier, but as you know, life tends to do whatever, regardless of if it’s what you’re needing or not.

So I wanted to talk a little bit today about stress and the body—what’s going on when we’re stressed out physically, what can we do to help fix it. Our culture basically thrives on stress—we feel constant pressure to be the best, to do the most, to constantly improve ourselves. We work a ton of hours, try to fit in time with family and friends, and still want to have extracurriculars. And all the while we’re looking for life balance, and even more frustrated when we can’t seem to achieve this.

The Stress Response

Our body activates a stress response to a situation via adrenaline, or epinephrine. This is the whole “fight or flight” thing people talk about. Our heart rates increase, blood pressure increases, you know what I’m talking about. Once the stress response is activated, our friend cortisol kicks in to regulate the response. All our unnecessary body functions go on hold until the stressful situation ends.

Now, this response is not a bad thing—it’s critical to our survival. You can think about the classic example of meeting a lion in the wild—your body has to activate a stress response so that you are primed to respond. Once you’ve gotten away from the lion, your body returns back to normal.

The thing is, in our society, our stress response is activated all. the. time. It’s like our bodies think we’re constantly interacting with lions every day. And a lot of bad things can happen as a result of this. Elevated stress hormones can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and weight gain. Cortisol in particular is associated with weight gain, especially in the abdominal region of our bodies.

On top of that, constant stress is known to affect our self-control, which explains stress eating, drinking, and sedentary behavior. Moderation takes discipline! And discipline is something I definitely lacked while I was chronically stressed.

Unfortunately, this all becomes a vicious cycle. Chronic stress is known to impair sleep, and poor sleep quality is associated with higher BMI. When you’re tired you lack self-control, plus your hunger hormones are screwed up and you crave more high-sugar, high-fat foods. See what I mean?

Assessing Stress

So what do we do? Just give in and accept that we’re going to be constantly stressed and unhealthy?

If you are going through a stressful time, there are a few things you need to assess. Determine what the source of stress is and how you are going to deal with it.

For me, it was school. And fortunately, there was a light at the end of that tunnel. I’m done with my degree and feel a TON better. And now I have time and energy to devote to things I love. But maybe the source of stress in your life is a job or a new baby or finances. Things that aren’t going to go away soon. What do you do then?

Prioritize sleep. Sleep is so incredibly important for your body, mind, and emotions. If you do nothing else, make sure you are getting enough sleep (or as much as you can). If thoughts or worries are keeping you up, try praying or meditating. I’ve been using this lavender sleep balm for a few months and LOVE it. Do some stretching before bed. Try to find a restful nighttime routine that signals to your body that it’s time to unwind for the day.

Secondly, try to manage the stress in your life as best as possible. Find a healthy way to relieve stress, and if possible, one that involves getting some healthy movement in. Again, mindfulness and prayer are key to this. Find social support—maybe through coworkers or friends or family members. It may mean making some changes, maybe some hard or scary ones. The thing is, your health has to be just as important to you as getting everything done. This is the only life and body that you get, and taking care of it is a privilege.

Lastly, give yourself some grace. Accept where you’re at and move on. For me, it’s with an extra 30 pounds. Am I thrilled about that? No. Am I going to beat myself up over it? No. I did a lot of incredible things over that past few years, and to me, that is more important than how thin I am. I am moving forward, looking at each day as a fresh start and way to make different, better choices than I was able to over the last few years.

Dealing with stress is such a difficult topic, and I by no means have all the answers. I’m just muddling my way through like everyone else. But I think this is a good place to start, and I hope this little post has been helpful, even a little bit.❤


Please note: The opinions in this post are my own and are not meant to substitute for professional medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes involving your health.
Information was obtained from the following sources:
Berset M et al. Does stress at work make you gain weight? A two-year longitudinal study. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2011;37(1):45-53.
Brand S et al. Influence of mindfulness practice on cortisol and sleep in long-term and short-term meditators. Neuropsychobiology. 2012;65:109-118.
Harding JL et al. Psychosocial stress is positively associated with body mass index gain over 5 years: evidence from the longitudinal AusDiab study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(1):277-286.
Rudenga KJ et al. Acute brain stress potentiates brain response to milkshake as a function of body weight and chronic stress. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013;37(2):309-316.
Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. Accessed August 23, 2016.

What I Learned on Vacation

About 2 weeks ago, I got back from vacation. My boyfriend and I went to visit some friends in California, and it was amazing.

We had a nightmare day of travel out to California, but like the champions we are, we didn’t let it get us down. On the docket for the week was a visit to Yosemite National Park, hanging out in Sacramento (kind of our home base for vacation, where our friends lived), and a trip to San Francisco. It was a lot to cram into 1 week of vacation!

I’m not going to recap the play-by-play of our vacation, because I honestly HATE reading vacation recaps. I don’t want to read about you lounging on the beach and going out to dinner at a different restaurant every night! It’s boring! What I am going to do is leave you with some things I learned during vacation—after all, the purpose of taking time off is to recharge and get some new perspective.

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Sunshine and movement is everything.

Some of you may know, but I have had anxiety issues for the last several years. The week we were in California, I felt SO GOOD. Like, it was kind of unbelievable. There are a lot of factors here—we were on vacation, all of my everyday stresses were on the back burner, we were spending a week with friends doing fun things—so feeling good is to be expected. But I think a large part of it was that we were outside in the sun getting lots of exercise. The weather was amazing and I got like 2 mosquito bites the entire week. We WANTED to spend time outside.

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So we come home and the humidity is 200% and mosquitoes feasted on my arms and legs the moment I stepped outside. It’s a little harder to enjoy being outside in summer in southern Indiana, but I’m trying to exercise a few times a week and walk our big dog in the morning, before the misery sets in.

I’ve been keeping a journal for the last few weeks and documenting how I feel each day, especially in relation to what kinds of food I’m eating and how much exercise and sleep I’m getting. I’ve noticed such an improvement on the days that I make time to go for a run or take Cooper out in the morning.

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Be willing to try new things.

I am more of an indoorsy city girl—basically a wimp when it comes to roughing it. So I knew that our plans included visiting Yosemite for a couple days, and to be honest, I thought that I would tolerate it. Joshua has always wanted to visit and I thought I would just play the role of supportive girlfriend while we were there. I was much more looking forward to San Francisco and being in the middle of a busy city.

But I absolutely LOVED Yosemite. Guys, it was by far my favorite part of vacation. We walked in streams! We saw a mama deer nursing her babies! We drove really far up a mountain and saw breathtaking views!

Moral of the story—sometimes you have to suck it up and try something you’re not super excited about. But sometimes that pays off. I’m so thankful that I had an open mind and positive attitude about our visit to Yosemite because it helped me realize that I can learn to enjoy things that maybe aren’t what I would expect. (Also I’m currently planning all of our future vacations to national parks.)

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Friends over phones.

File this under “duh,” but it never hurts to reinforce this lesson. Did I take lots of photos on Instagram during vacation? Yes. Do I regret that? No. Do I regret basically ignoring social media for the rest of the week? Heck no.

While I love being able to see what my friends are up to, social media can also be depressing as hell. Especially since most people (myself included) are only posting their highlight reels—not real life. So it’s easy for me to go in a black hole of scrolling through pictures of other people’s lives and forget to live mine or to fall into the comparison trap. Our week away helped me to see how much better I feel when I’m connecting with real life people instead of worrying about what other people are doing. Since we’ve gotten back, I’ve found myself on my phone less and less, and it feels really good.

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Since we’re back to reality (and have been for the past few weeks), I really want to try to keep these vacation habits going. Plus, it’s fun to pretend that I live in sunny California.🙂

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10-Month Catch-Up

Hi! SO. My last post was in October 2015. The thing about having a blog is that it is time-consuming. As much as I would love to think that this blog will really take off and become my sole source of income and that I would just get paid to shill a bunch of stuff to my friends and family via the internet, it probably won’t. And when I have approximately 1,000,000 things going on, maintaining this little site is the least of my priorities.

So what’s been going on in the last 10 months? I’m glad you asked.

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I FINISHED MY DEGREE!

Yup, I now am the proud holder of 2 bachelor’s degrees—a B.A. in English Literature and a B.S. in Food and Nutrition. I have truly loved being in school for the last 2.5 years, but I am thankful that it is over.

When I decided to go back to school in December 2013, my life was in a very ‘meh’ place. I was living alone, single, working at a job that I didn’t feel challenged in, and watching a lot of my friends move into new and exciting stages of their lives. I had to make a change. And so even though I was really scared, I decided to enroll in classes part time.

In January 2014, I started taking a chem class in the evenings and 2 online classes. I was working full time, and at the time work was very busy. But I loved my classes and knew this was something I had to go for full force. So the following semester, I started taking classes full time and moved to part time at my job.

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This is where things got out of hand.

I loved my classes and, unlike when I was in college as a 20-year-old, actually cared about my grades. My life was basically consumed with work, going to class, and studying. If I was lucky, I would be able to do 1 fun thing a week. Around this time I also had met this great guy, and was trying to figure out how to fit that in to my life. Needless to say, I was pretty busy and a stress monster.

So now I’m back to just normal adulting. My degree is finished, and while I’m kind of sad that I’m done with school learning for this chapter of my life, I’m excited to start new ventures.

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What kind of new ventures? For one, I’m hoping to post on here more often. I have learned so much over the last few years, and I can’t wait to share some of it with you. I also am excited about committing to my own health again—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Yoga has been making a comeback lately, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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I have a lot of other ideas going around in my head, and I haven’t had time to fully develop them yet. Classes ended at the end of June, and July was a whirlwind of weddings and vacation and general summertime. But now that I’ve had a little bit of rest, I’m excited to get back into working on a few projects. Stay tuned.❤

What’s New Wednesday

Hi! Hello. What’s new? This week is Fall Festival week in Evansville, and I am sick. Those two things are actually unrelated. I’m blaming this random bout of sickness that came out of nowhere on Monday night on the ridiculous weather we’ve been having. The last couple weeks here have been sunny and warm during the week and then cold and dreary on the weekends. I went to the store and loaded up on Emergen-C, distilled water (hello, neti pot!), bottled water, orange juice, throat drops, and the behind-the-counter Mucinex. Oh yeah.

So what else has been going on?

I started my lab rotations in the Sodexo kitchen at school.

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That, my friends, is me in my lovely chef’s coat. (Notice Dora behind me not caring less about it.) For one of my classes this semester, we’re working in the kitchens at school. Cue me being a nervous wreck: I’ve never worked in a kitchen and am not a terribly good cook. Thankfully, we only do this once a week for a month, and everyone (so far) has been incredibly patient and kind to me.

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Also, the chef I worked with last week rewarded us with this amazing brownie…thing? I split it with my boyfriend last week and it was to die for.

Still doing the running thing, although probably not as consistently as I would like. Meaning none so far this week, but I really can’t afford to get SICK sick right now—so I’m being kind to my body and giving myself a break. On Sunday I ran along the greenway downtown. It was the day after the half marathon, and there were lots of chalk messages still leftover on the path.

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Very inspirational, even if they weren’t for me necessarily.

On Monday, I tried Sunshine Juice Co.‘s new seasonal blend, appropriately named Fall.

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It is organic spinach, pear, and ginger, and definitely a winner. I know a lot of people are turned off by green juice, and some of it does taste like…you cleaned off the bottom of your lawnmower, as a coworker described it to me recently. I swear, stick with it. Your palate will adapt. But anyway, Fall does not taste like mowed grass. It’s sweet and mild and delicious. Definitely go pick some up ASAP. (And PSA: Sunshine Juice is doing some buy X amount get one free deals this weekend for their 1-year anniversary!)

Lastly, I make my boyfriend watch Wheel of Fortune all the time, which he hates. Why? I don’t know—maybe I’m actually a grandma, or maybe he has bad taste in classic TV shows. But anyway, we were watching last night and compelled to look up how old Pat and Vanna are on IMDB. (Side note: Is anyone else on IMDB like every day? It’s one of my most-used apps.) Anyway, I came across this bio of Vanna White on there:

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I loved this way too much. I hope IMDB never takes that down.

Well, now I’m off to drink some OJ + Emergen-C (which my friend Brit would point out as being completely pointless, because you just pee out what you don’t need) and to take a nice hot shower. Have a great evening, guys!

Tuesday, Lately

Well hello there! I hope you are having a lovely Tuesday so far. The weather here is absolutely beautiful—sunny and warm, but not hot or humid. And the evenings have been chilly, so like the basic B that I am, I’m hoping that fall is just around the corner.

Some things of late:

My boyfriend is a huge Notre Dame fan, and so I am also one now by default (cue real sports fans everywhere being super annoyed by that statement).

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We threw a party for the first football game of the season, and it was awesome. He built a huge screen to project the game on outside, we had a campfire + s’mores + pizza, and generally a really good time hanging out, watching the game, and chatting (that was more me than him).

I’m still trucking along with the Couch to 5K thing.

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And today’s run was brought to you by 50 Shades of Blue. (I hope that’s not a thing.) I haven’t been following the Couch to 5K program strictly, but I’ve managed to get couple run/walk times in each week, and I’m happy with that. I don’t have an end goal or anything in mind, so as far as I’m concerned, I can take my sweet time.

Also, I got a massage yesterday at the chiropractor’s office, and it killed me. That’s all.

This past weekend, I worked as a server at an event for one of my classes. I have never waited tables before in my life—I was an absolute nervous wreck leading up to it. Fortunately, everything was fine, except for the exhaustion that took me the whole next day to recover from. To all of you in the food service industry: Respect. I don’t know how you do it.

And lastly, little baby Dora wasn’t feeling well last week.

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She’s being a little overdramatic in that photo, as per usual. Basically, she got in the trash one night last week, then spent the next 2 days vomiting up everything. So much dog vomit. I took her to the vet to make sure nothing else was wrong, and then paid $100 for them to tell me, Yup, she just got in the trash. To top it all off, she has a tooth that needs pulled soon. (I should mention here that I also had car trouble last week, which was not cheap.) When it rains, it pours.

And now, we’re all caught up. I’m off to get ready for an event tonight, and I’m actually dressing up—yoga pants are staying in the drawer tonight.🙂

A Day in the Life: Back to School

Hi! I hope you are all getting ready to enjoy a nice long Labor Day weekend. I took a vacation day on Friday, and I’ll be busy doing a mix of projects, schoolwork, and having some R&R time.

I’ve been meaning to check in on here for the last few weeks, but, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I started classes last week. That first week of getting into the groove can be killer—I always feel like I have to relearn how to balance work, school, fun, and my personal time. I’m pretty excited for this semester and the classes I’m taking. And best news—this is my last year! I actually filled out graduation paperwork this afternoon.😀

One of my favorite blogs (and one of the first blogs I started following) is Carrots n Cake. She does this semi-weekly feature called A Day in the Life, and I thought it would be fun to try over here. I also originally intended this to be a WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday) post…but then I forgot to take a picture of dinner, and now it’s Thursday—so obvs not happening.

But first things first: I got a lot of my hair chopped off.

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That’s the before and after. OK, and now that I’m looking at it, it doesn’t look that drastic. But to me it was. And my hair feels so. much. healthier.

A Day in the Life: Tuesday, September 1

6:00am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

6:18am Actually get up. Head to the kitchen to make breakfast.

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3 scrambled eggs cooked in coconut oil (topped with black pepper and hot sauce), a big ol’ peach, and water.

6:45am Get ready to face the day!

7:15am Head to class at 8am, but stop for iced coffee on the way. (Duh.)

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Iced coffee + skim milk.

8:00am Class (stimulating PowerPoint lectures included).

9:45am Head out for my first Couch to 5K run.

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I have not run in several months. Starting last fall, I kept getting injuries in my left leg when I was running, and even though I love running, I just stopped. But lately I’ve been really missing it (plus, fall is like the best running weather, ever), so I decided to eat my humble pie and start really reallllllly slowly. The first run is a 5-min warmup, 20 mins of alternating 1 min run/1.5 min walk, and 5-min cool down. It was really good, but I have the most killer blister on my left ankle (TMI?).

10:15am Clean up and make a smoothie for a snack.

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This was 1 cup of almond milk, ice, and a packet of Amazing Grass Green Superfood. I found out about Amazing Grass through my blog crush, and it’s really good. You can actually order a sampler pack of several of their supplement powders (plus that cute little bottle above) for like $10. Check it out!

10:30am Settle in for a couple hours of schoolwork.

12:30pm Lunch and chit-chat break, followed by more schoolwork.

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Today I had an Amy’s burrito (gluten-free and dairy-free) over some mixed greens, plus a sliced apple with almond butter and chocolate chips. Oh, and a McDonald’s Diet Coke (Transparency!).

3:00pm Back to class (this one included a PowerPoint, but was much more interesting).

4:45pm Home to grab essentials for dinner and let little Dora out.

5:30pm Arrive at boyfriend’s house, light the grill and throw fries in the toaster oven. This is where I failed to take any more pictures for the day, but we grilled these amazing chicken sausages and had sweet potato waffle fries on the side.

After dinner, we watched some TV and caught up on our days. #theperfectcouple

10:00pm Home for the night. Talk with the roommate for a bit and get ready for bed.

10:30pm Get in bed, read for a bit (this), and hit the lights.

So that’s a typical school day right now. I think I might try to do a work day or weekend episode of these too, if you’re interested. I am super nosy and love reading these things, plus it’s nice to get ideas for meals or snacks or what have you.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me in this. I hope you all have a safe and happy Labor Day, and hopefully I’ll check in again on here soon!

100 Posts & an A to Z Survey

Well you guys, I’ve officially made it to 100 posts. 100! Yup, I’ve managed to regale you with 100 blog posts about my dog, trying to get up with my alarm, what I’ve eaten lately, and how much I love yoga. (For real, if you have managed to stick with me through this, I❤ you so much.) In celebration of my 100th post, I thought I’d do one of those blog surveys that I love (read: I’m very nosy). I found this one on several other blogs that I read, but I modified a few of the questions that I didn’t care for.🙂

A – Age: 29 (!)

B – Biggest Fear: I’ve left the door unlocked or the oven on or a candle burning…this is the mind of someone who’s in a constant state of worry.

C – Current Time: 2:42pm

D – Drink You Had Last: Bottled water

E – Easiest Person To Talk To: My mom. My boyfriend. My best friend. I’m very lucky.

F – Favorite Song: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John

G – Guilty Pleasure: Chick lit novels (these and these in particular)

H – Hometown: Evansville, Indiana

I – In Love With: My boyfriend. (And my dog.)

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J – Jealous Of: Morning people. But seriously, how do you do it?!

K – Keepsake You Will Never Part With: The picture of my grandparents on their wedding day.

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L – Last Picture On Your Camera Roll: OK, I had to scroll back a few screenshots, but here’s this precious picture of Dora snoozing with her penguin.

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M – Middle Name: Rae

N – Number of Siblings: 3 sisters (+ 2 brothers in law)

O – One Wish: To finish these last 2 semesters of school without losing my mind.

P – Person You Spoke To On The Phone Last: My mama

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Q – Question You’re Always Asked: “When will you be done with school?”

R – Reason To Laugh: Lots, but I have been cracking up today thinking about this scene from Bridesmaids. (Language alert!)

S – Song You Last Sang:  “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, but in an obnoxious Broadway voice.

T – Time You Woke Up: 7:20am

U – Underwear Color: Maroon (haha, could anything be unsexier?)

V – Vacation Destination: Like dream vacation? London. But my favorite place to visit that I’ve actually been to is Chicago.

W – Worst Habit: The snooze button

X – X-rays You’ve Had: Uh…like for the dentist and stuff. And of my knee when I initially hurt it.

Y – Your Favorite Food: I’m going to be super basic white girl and say pizza.

Z – Zodiac Sign: Scorpio

Wasn’t that fun? And don’t you feel so much more connected to me?? Haha. But seriously, if you have read my weird, rambling thoughts at any time, it really does mean so much to me. Hopefully within the next 10 years, I’ll be celebrating 200 posts.🙂 Maybe sooner!