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I am Louise O'Driscoll, founder of Natural Balance. I am a Certified Eating Psychology Coach, helping people find their way to a healthy and happy relationship with food and body.

Lighten up!

By louiseodriscoll, Feb 4 2015 03:10PM

I saw a yoga quote recently that read 'If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down' - it resonated with me because it ties in with an aspect of Dynamic Eating Psychology that I often work with - the fact that our state of mind has a powerful impact on our metabolisms and our weight. Unhappiness, anxiety and stress can leave us feeling sluggish, downtrodden and overwhelmed, which in our body translates to high levels of cortisol, exhaustion and depression, all of which impact negatively on our health and weight.


So in contrast to all the New Year resolutions that focus solely on releasing physical weight through restrictive diets and punishing exercise, I'd like to suggest an alternative approach, to think about how you can lighten up in other areas. If life is feeling a little overwhelming and your stress levels are high, these simple steps could make a huge difference to your state of mind, with a knock on effect on your physical wellbeing.


Have a clear out of junk in your home. Its amazing how much being in a disorganised environment can make our head feel crowded and slightly out of control too. If this seems like an insurmountable task, start small


- sort a single drawer of clothes in your bedroom into those you should keep, throw or give to charity;


- go through a single shelf in your kitchen cupboard and ditch anything out of date;


- clear out your handbag/work bag and think about keeping only the real essentials in there;


- clear your email inbox of old messages and unsubscribe from at least 10 marketing emails that regularly clog it up - I did this recently every day for a week and now feel much less deluged. There are also services such as 'unrollme' that you can use to collate all marketing emails into a single message for you to make your online life even less cluttered;


Relax and watch a funny film or TV programme, laughter is good medicine! I'd recommend something like Dodgeball or Zoolander (in fact most Ben Stiller films) for utterly ridiculous, guaranteed to make you laugh scenes, they are about as light as it gets!


Take a walk in nature. When we spend all our time indoors away from the horrible weather, we often don't realise how oppresive ceilings can become. Fresh air and sky can release the pressure.


Play with some children, be as silly as you can. The simple way they look at life and the funny things they say can provide perspective sometimes. Failing that, borrow a friendly dog (if you don't already have one) to hang out with for an afternoon.


Take a class or do something that is new to you or one that you find fun - something like zumba or trampolining, karaoke, or a dance or singing class, anything that helps you let go of your inhibitions a little is a great release.


Think about how each of the people in your life affect your mood and energy. Do they bring you down or raise your spirits and enthusiasm? Minimise your time with the former as much as you can and choose to be around the latter whenever possible.


Consider the food you eat the same way. We can be drawn, particularly when it is cold and dark, to stodgy comfort food, but be aware of how foods such as starchy carbs can leave you feeling. Without setting any rules, experiment with meals with perhaps less meat and more veg. Swap carbs such as pasta and mashed potato for lentils, cauliflower, beans or chickpeas - these can form the basis of warm, comforting dishes such as soups, dahls or casseroles, without the soporific effect that so often follows a dish of white carbs.


Regularly take time off from all screens, perhaps one whole afternoon on a weekend, or after 7.30pm every evening. We can easily underestimate the level of stress created by being constantly updated and in touch with the online community, whether work emails or facebook. Let it go, connect with someone face to face, read a (real) book, play a board game, walk in nature, meditate, take a bath, whatever...just as long as you disconnect from electronic media (and persuade the rest of your family to do the same!)

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