Today, who doesn’t have tons of stress in their life? Too much stress can raise blood pressure, cause stomach problems, disrupt sleep patterns and more. As if that’s not bad enough, stress can induce weight gain. There are a couple reasons behind this phenomenon.
First, when you’re frazzled, it’s easy to turn to food as a source of comfort and make poor eating choices. Second, stress stimulates the release of the flight-or-fight hormone, cortisol, which can make your waistline expand.
To help you avoid packing on the pounds when you’re stressed out, author and gynecologist Dr. Jen Ashton shares her foolproof secret weapons to help you cut out poor eating habits, fight stress, and lose weight. The plan requires you to be somewhat strict Monday through Friday, but the weekends offer a little wiggle room from the dietary restrictions.
Foods That Fight Stress
1: Eliminate Bad Carbs
Start by eliminating all bad carbs from your diet. That includes anything that contains simple sugars such as foods made with white flour, processed snacks, white potatoes, etc. Monday through Friday try to eliminate anything in grain form, even the good whole-grain carbs, and stick to lean proteins, fruits and vegetables instead.
Dr. Ashton’s Secret Weapon: Wheat berries
On the weekends, make wheat berries – whole-wheat kernels – your go-to carbs. These healthy whole grains, available in hard and soft forms – are versatile, high-in-protein, complex carbohydrates that will keep you full and help you maintain a high energy level throughout the day. Add them to salads, cereal or mix with dry fruit for a healthy snack.
2. Add 2 Protein-rich Snacks Per Day
When you’re hit with mid-morning or mid-afternoon cravings, you need to fill your tank with good fuel to zap energy lulls. Many people reach for chips or other empty carbs at snack time, but these foods cause energy spikes that result in crashes and fatigue. The key to staying full and regulating your energy level is to make protein part of both your meals and snacks.
Dr. Ashton’s Secret Weapon: Plant-based Protein Powder
Add plant-based protein powders such those made from hemp or flaxseed to shakes and enjoy during mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack time. Create a veggie-based shake with frozen spinach or go sweeter by adding frozen strawberries.
3. The Power of Purple Foods
At every meal, add some purple foods such as plums, eggplants or purple cabbage – all of which are packed with powerful antioxidants that improve your overall health.
Dr. Ashton’s Secret Weapon: Purple Potatoes
Purple potatoes, now more readily available in grocery stores, have been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
4. Avoid Packaged Foods
So many of us reach for packaged snack foods when we’re busy or stressed out even though we know they’re not healthy choices. Follow this rule of thumb: If it contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t eat it.
Dr. Ashton’s Secret Weapon: “To-go” Containers
To avoid munching on something that comes out of a snack bag, buy portable containers with a couple of different compartments. At breakfast time, pack your protein-rich snacks, some purple foods, etc. You’ll avoid purchasing convenience foods at work, save time, and also lose weight.
In sum, remember to stick to the plan Monday through Friday. In addition to enjoying your wheat berries on the weekends, reward yourself in other ways such as indulging your sweet tooth with a piece of dark chocolate. The reason this plan works is that it’s sustainable and allows you to also have some flexibility.
Beauty Secrets to Heal Stressed-out Skin
Not only does stress take its toll on us internally, but it also wrecks havoc on our external appearance, especially our skin, causing everything from dehydration to worry lines to pimples. Dr. Ashton’s beauty secrets for healthy, radiant skin involve using natural ingredients whenever possible rather than chemical-based products. She draws upon the wisdom of the ancient ayurvedic school of medicine – if you can’t pronounce it or it’s not pure enough to eat, try not to use it on your skin on a daily basis. (Of course, if your doctor recommends you use prescription medications, you should follow their advice).
Dr. Ashton recommends three items everyone can use to make their skin look more beautiful. You may have many of these natural ingredients at home.
1. Cooking oils
Cooking oils such as safflower oil (or coconut oil) seal in moisture. Mix up a body moisturizer with a cooking oil and a couple of drops of lavender oil or vanilla extract for an aromatherapy boost that can help with circulation and have a calming effect. (Lavender is known to treat everything from headaches to inflammation.) You can use this as a total body treatment: massage into your hair, your knees and elbows, etc.
1 cup sunflower oil (or coconut oil)
½ tsp lavender or vanilla extract
Spices play an important role in ayurvedic medicine and beauty routines. Try mixing classic Indian spices – cumin and coriander – to make a beauty mask that’s great for purifying and turning over dead skin cells. Apply to face and leave on for 30 minutes before rinsing
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
3-5 drops of water
3. Baking Supplies
Certain baking supplies can help restore a younger appearance to your skin. Grind up a few almonds and mix with milk, sugar and water to make a paste. Massage into skin – don’t forget your neck and chest and leave on for 30 minutes before rinsing off. This incredible cleanser will leave your skin plumper, smoother and more hydrated,
½ teaspoon dry milk
Pinch of sugar
3 ground almonds (grind them yourself or try almond meal or almond powder)
Pinch of ginger