De-Stress and Destroy Fat-Loss Plateaus
The Slim Is Simple.org Non-Profit Nutrition Education Effort
JONATHAN: Welcome to the Smarter Science of Slim, the scientifically proven program where you eat more and exercise less to burn fat and boost health.
CARRIE: Eat smarter. Exercise smarter. Live better. I am so ready for that! Welcome.
JONATHAN: I thought you said–
JONATHAN: We’re keeping this in the recording. Right before we started, folks, I said, “Do you one me to do the intro?” and Carrie goes, “Yes,” and then I started two, one, and Carrie started the intro. So who’s doing the intro?
CARRIE: You can.
JONATHAN: Okay. Behind the scenes with the Calorie Myth Show. Hey everybody. It’s Jonathan Bailor with Carrie Brown and we are recording the Calorie Myth Show in a very structured and planned way like we always do. Carrie, how are you today?
CARRIE: I’m laughing a lot today. The sun is shining and we’ve been laughing a lot. It’s a good day.
JONATHAN: It is a good day and today is going to be an especially good day because it’s Part Three of an epic three part series which is Carrie’s even greater levels of sanity she’s achieved recently and this is the last in the wonderful series. So if you haven’t heard the previous two shows, please do listen to them. And today we have got two things to explore with Carrie Brown as she has made this amazing, even saner transformation, and those are stress and appetite. Oh yeah!
JONATHAN: So Carrie, stress, the S word, something that none of us have ever experienced. Talk to us about stress.
CARRIE: My stress levels got to the point where they were completely ridiculous and it got to the point where I was forced to take a step back and make some changes if I was actually going to survive. I know that sounds dramatic.
It was dramatic and I think it’s very easy to continue going to keep up these levels of stress and go, “Oh it will get better, it will get better magically. It will get better, it will get better,” until you reach the point where everything kind of implodes and you realize that if you don’t take some action, things are going to go horribly wrong and that’s where I had got to.
JONATHAN: A key, key distinction when it comes to talking about stress — and I’m going to take this in the direction I think most listeners I think are going to be surprised by — is stress and perceived stress. I think when we look at a lot of the psychological research out there, it’s perceived stress because technically there is no such thing as objective stress.
Stress is when something happens [and] our response to it causes stress. But this doesn’t mean, “Oh the problem is with you and you just need to think more positively.”
No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. What happens often in our lives is if people just tell us, “Okay. You need to change your outlook on life. You need to perceive that there is less stress in your life because very few things are either intrinsically good or bad. It’s how we perceive them.”
However telling someone who isn’t sleeping or who is unhealthy to change their perception of the world is — literally impossible. When you are sick and sad and tired and stuck in traffic, you will perceive that differently than when you’re healthy and fit and happy and well rested and stuck in traffic.
So you can’t just say always– I mean there of course are things you can do with your perception, but you also have to say, “Take a step back. I have to give myself a chance to heal so that I have the ability to change my perception.” What do you think?
CARRIE: Absolutely. Absolutely true. And so a lot of the things that I’ve done over the last month, or month to six weeks — that have had such a huge impact on me — have actually been, now Jonathan has mentioned it, have actually been around making some changes in my physical life that have changed the way I think about things and I’m not then feeling stressed about situations that, six weeks ago, I would have done.
JONATHAN: That’s exactly right, and people often say, “Yeah, so okay. If your job is stressing you out, change jobs.” That is risky, I believe, because I think what you’ll often find is every job is stressful. Of course there are extenuating circumstances. What we really have the most ability to change is not this just brute force, “Smile and change your perception,” but rather having the inner strength and serenity to lift these stressful… It’s just like someone who physically builds strength.
If your legs are very strong and someone puts — if your legs and back are very strong and someone puts 100 pounds’ worth of stress, physical stress, on your back, it’s not going to impact you as much as if your legs and back were really weak. The same thing applies to emotional stress. If your brain and spirit and soul etc. are strong and at peace, 100 pounds of stress is going to be perceived as different by your body and your mind.
CARRIE: Right. Absolutely. So one of the things that I’ve started doing, that has helped me specifically in that area, is I started going to a yoga class.
JONATHAN: Love yoga!
CARRIE: And that has been brilliant for my body as well as my mind, because you actually spend an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes or the length of the class where your mind is not thinking anything bad. Actually your mind is completely neutral for an extended period of time where all you do is focus on your breathing and your body and how you feel, this sense of mindfulness. And that has made a huge difference in my ability to deal with stuff that’s happened to me.
JONATHAN: I’m so happy you brought that up, Carrie, because I really think one of the number one things, up there with transforming our diet — especially in western culture — is moving away from what I will make up and call the “chainsaw model”, which is “You have this problem in your life. Get out the chainsaw! Just plow through it! Just try harder!” Just insane!
That seems to be the message we continuously hear; whereas if you look often at Eastern approaches, they are much more like, “Okay. Hold on. Take a step back. What’s going on? Think about it calmly.”
But that’s not like– We have been given this chainsaw mindset whereas what you’re talking about here — yoga, stretching, restorative exercise, sleep, meditation, mindfulness, smiling, laughing — these are not chainsaw-based approaches and I find that they often work so globally and, at least for me, so much better.
CARRIE: Yeah, the yoga… And let me be clear. This is not the bikram yoga, hot yoga or power yoga. This does not look like or feel like a workout. This is restorative yoga that I’m doing and I’ve just found it enormously beneficial for my body and my brain. And so that hour investment of time has actually given me back hours of other time that I was spending with the body that wasn’t functioning as well and a brain that wasn’t functioning as well.
JONATHAN: And that’s a huge distinction that I think will really benefit our listeners, Carrie. Am I doing this — and this is going to sound a little bit dark but I think it’s true for a lot of people, certainly myself included at one point in time in my life — if I’m doing something, especially with physical activity, am I doing it to restore myself or am I doing it to punish myself?
So often I think, if we take a step back, a lot of the approaches to exercise, certainly not smarter restorative exercise that we have in our culture, are punitive. It’s like you are doing this to punish yourself for either eating the wrong thing or just for sitting all day, like “You need to do this. This is punishment.” Whereas the mindset here is “This is a privilege. This is restoration.”
And again, it’s another distinction between that chainsaw and that restoration. Is exercise or is physical, being mindful about your body — are you perceiving that as punishment or are you perceiving that as restoration? And if you’re perceiving it as punishment, we might need to find a smarter approach.
CARRIE: Stress is absolutely disastrous for helping you reach your health and fat loss goals, absolutely disastrous. Jonathan can probably speak to this –he’s the scientist in this outfit — he can speak to the production of cortisol and how the physiological changes in your body happen that when you’re in a state of stress, you’re actually not going to be burning body fat but you’re actually going to be laying it down. It’s really, really important that as well as your smarter eating and your smarter exercise, we have to do smarter thinking in terms of stress management.
JONATHAN: And a lot of people may not know this or they haven’t read the Calorie Myth book, but there is a whole section of the Calorie Myth book called, “Smarter Psychology or Sane Psychology” which helps to do some of these things.
And to Carrie’s point about the science of this, there is a lot of science around profound negative impacts that stress has on our body and our mind. And this isn’t to stress you out even more; it’s just to say that, for example, if you are sick, you have the flu, your life in many ways will be dedicated to resolving that sickness.
Chronic stress and what it does to your body is no different in many ways than literally being sick. It has the same impact on you and deserves the same “I need to cure this” and the dedicated effort that’s around it. It’s this chronic sickness that we just call stress in our culture and the acidic environment and the cortisol-elevating environment and the sleep-depriving environment that it causes literally ages us, literally.
We just aired one of our bonus shows, Carrie, with a researcher and author by the name of Thea Singer, who explores in her book Stress Less how you can actually look at your DNA and there are these things called telomeres, which are like the caps on the end and they fray as you “age”. And so you can look at the telomeres of a five year old and they will be more intact than the telomeres on a 95 year old because, for all intents and purposes, they unravel over time.
But what was interesting about this research is it’s not actually age that causes this; it’s stress. If you take someone, like the President for example, and you look at– It looks like they age twenty years in four years because they actually do. It’s not just twenty years has past but so much stress has entered their body that it’s literally changed them in a negative fashion.
CARRIE: Yep. And I’ve really experienced that in the last 18 months when my sleep was all over the place and I had all these external stressors. Working on reducing stress, in just a few short weeks, has produced a pronounced positive impact in my life and also on my weight.
JONATHAN: And when it comes to actually getting rid of stress, there is as much written about this as there is eating, exercise, sleep, so on and so forth. So there are all kinds of great resources out there. But I heard one little story or saying from Wayne Dyers, who’s obviously a very popular author, who really changes the way I perceive stress in my life because I used to worry about a lot of things. I still do, but I’ve gotten better at it.
His saying goes like this. If it’s something you can control, you can control it, so there is no need to worry about it. Okay? If it’s something you can’t control, you can’t control it so there is no need to worry about it. Since everything that happens in the world is either something you can control or can’t control, there is nothing in the world worth worrying about! And I was like, “Wow!” It’s hard to do but it’s…
CARRIE: Right. That’s profound actually.
JONATHAN: Isn’t that crazy?
CARRIE: Yeah, it is crazy. But what I’ve been focusing on the past few weeks is on the things like I can control. I’m just going to throw a few crazy things out there that were–
CARRIE: A stressor for me was I was continually worried about losing data, about losing stuff on my hard drives, about losing my images. And so, for me what I did was I sat down and I filed everything and then I’ve been making backups to a remote hard drive and also getting a cloud storage solution. So now I don’t have to worry because I’ve got everything backed up.
And I also, going back to last week’s show about routine, I have now routinized in my calendar that on X times a month or X day of every month, I go through this process where I back everything up again, make sure it’s all good. That has removed an amazing amount of just annoying, irritating worry that was playing on in my brain all the time about “Well what would happen if I lost this? What would happen if…?” That’s gone.
JONATHAN: Yeah. And Carrie, that’s– I love that you brought up that example, because while it’s certainly not related to eating or exercise necessarily, it’s a concrete example of an exercise we can all do — and I don’t mean physical exercise but mental exercise — which is just for five minutes sit down, because it will not be hard, and write down the five things that you stress about the most.
One might be your job. Okay. That’s not one that you can necessarily change tomorrow. But if one of them ends up being… Here’s a silly example for me. Angela and I are blessed enough to live in a house with very high ceilings and three lights of the myriad lights that are in our ceiling had burned out and we’re burned out and it stressed me out. I’m like “I can’t see in my own damn house,” and I was just so stressed. And then I was like, “Okay, dumb dumb, go to Costco, buy a ladder, and replace the light bulbs.” It took 15 minutes. I did it and then I’m like “Oh, the lights are work now.”
And it was just so stupid. Like every single day it stressed me out. I hit the light switch; the light didn’t turn on; stress. So just figure out these five things that stress you out and you can probably find one, two, maybe even three of them that, if you just set aside an hour or two, maybe put a little routine in place, they would go away.
CARRIE: Another silly example is that when I remodeled my kitchen, which… I know those of you who have been following that still haven’t had pictures because it’s still not done. But anyway, when I was remodeling my kitchen at the end of last year, one of the things I did was I bought a not cheap double oven, beautiful double oven so that I could test more things all at the same time. I didn’t have to wait for the oven. I could bake two sauce [00:16:41 inaudible] instead of one.
It was quite an investment but it’s important because you know the recipes that I create I want to be perfect for you. The top oven burned everything. The grill cycled on and off and it burned everything. I bake — I don’t fry it or grill it, I bake it in the oven. I put the bacon in there; within two minutes it would be like going completely crazy.
JONATHAN: Crazy bacon.
CARRIE: And so I lived with it — well I didn’t live with it — I just didn’t use the top oven. So I’m just now using one oven and it’s been stressing me for three months that I just spent all this money on this oven and one of the ovens doesn’t work and I can’t use it. And it’s been like, “I’ve got to call LG. I’ve got to call LG. I mean they need to give me a new oven.”
The amount of stress that’s been in my — over this oven, and so I finally — I didn’t want to call LG because I didn’t want to fight and I was worried about them saying no and — leaving this big “ovenly” mess in my head! And for three months!
And so I finally called LG and they… It’s a very technical, digital oven and so they helped me with the setting that is not obvious, but they helped me with this setting and so I was able to recalibrate the upper oven and reduce the heat by — anyway, did all the settings. And last night, bacon! “All right. We’re going to test this, see if it works.”
JONATHAN: Bakin’ some bacon.
CARRIE: So I got my bacon out. I baked my bacon. Perfect bacon! I’ve spent three months stressing about the fact that I spent all this money on an oven that didn’t work and it was this simple! It was you know half an hour on the phone with LG. Now I have perfect bacon whichever oven I cook it in.
So that’s another silly example. And you may think this has nothing to do with eating smarter and exercising smarter, but thinking smarter is a huge part of the equation because if you’re stressed, that stress causes your smart eating and smart exercise not to be as effective. So if you want those things to be as effective as they can be, you need to get a handle on the stress as well.
JONATHAN: Absolutely. It’s all tied together too, Carrie. Folks often hear at Calorie Myth “the Smarter Science of Slim” and they think it’s just about eating and exercise, but we really know what we’re talking about here is about saying “conventional wisdom” has often been wrong, or the theories of 50 years ago are not the same theories we could use today.
And this idea of “Just grin and bear it and fight your way through it,” I mean that’s not what we’re about. We’re about working smarter not working harder. And managing stress in a smart way like you’re talking about here, Carrie, is just identify it and then fix the things you can.
At least what I found, too, is sometimes there is also a baseline level of stress. I’ve noticed this in my own life, and this is again backed by the research, where happiness, stress, things like that, all… The Set Point Model fits in a lot of areas of life where they’ve seen, for example, people who win the lottery or people who become paralyzed. You go up and you go down, but after some time passes you’re basically back at this set point level of happiness or stress. So there are these niggly little things that can keep us at that base line, and then the big things, while we can and must change them in certain circumstances… There is a lot of internal work we’ve talked about here, too, Carrie, where we change jobs.
Certainly… Like if your boss is harassing you, obviously you need to get out of that situation. But what a lot of people have found is for example if they’re like “My job stresses me out,” interestingly enough they will change jobs and then that job will stress them out, and then they’ll change jobs again and that job will stress them out.
And I can certainly empathize with this because, in every professional capacity I’ve ever lived in, I’ve always had basically the same level of basic stress and I realize that I needed to turn in the word a little bit to say let me change my set point level of stress. Let me do things, like Carrie said, a meditation, yoga, be healthy and sleep and have happiness and gratitude in my life because changing that base line set point level, rather than worrying about all these things you have going on, is just another tool at your disposal.
JONATHAN: And it sounds like you’ve done both, so there are these very macro internal things like yoga and sleep and meditation and having happy, positive relationships; and then there is also “Get the oven fixed. Get your data backed up and get those burned out light bulbs replaced with some bright light bulbs,” and really maximize your set point level or minimize your set point level of stress.
CARRIE: The last four to six weeks I have been focusing on changing the things I do control in my environment. It’s fixing all those little things. And the change has been dramatic. And I know that even though yes, I’ve had to spend some time fixing things, over time I’m saving myself a ton of time and a huge amount of stress, and that has impacted my health and my wellbeing and my fat loss goals so enormously, I can’t recommend to you highly enough to look at where you are in your stress and figure out how to reduce it.
JONATHAN: So if what you’re doing to help you burn fat and boost health is that actually stressing you out — that’s the opposite; that’s why we don’t recommend starvation because it’s extremely stressful or chronic exercise because it’s extremely stressful — you want to reduce stress, reduce body fat. And, Carrie, we actually blew the lid off stress, so next week, we’re going to have to pick up with appetite, bBut I think this was a great show.
CARRIE: I hope it was helpful. I really can’t say enough about how much looking at this area of your life will also impact the eating and the exercising you’re doing.
JONATHAN: Brilliant. Well, folks, please remember this week and every week after: eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.
CARRIE: See you.
JONATHAN: Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet!
CARRIE: You can get Fabulous, Free, Sane Recipes over at carriebrown.com.
JONATHAN: And don’t forget your 100%-Free Eating and Exercise Quick Start Program as well as free, fun, daily tips delivered right into your inbox at bailorgroup.com. That’s B-A-I-L-O-R Group dot com.
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