When talking to people about their journey to lose weight, I find that there are so many factors in their life which sabotage their efforts; most of which they are quite unaware of. We must deal with each of these factors if there is ever to be long term success.

I rarely begin a conversation simply talking about food. If there has been no change in a person’s weight, then I’m more interested in all the other factors that might be impacting on their lack of success, beyond food. Stress is the major one, and stress seems to play a major role in everyone’s life. It may not be obvious in the sense of underlying anxiety or depression, but simply dealing with everyday life. Work demands, interactions with colleagues, deadlines, conflicts with others, or even the simple fact we spend most of the day sitting down. At the end of the day we feel exhausted and yet face another set of stressors with family when we arrive home. There may be kids or grandkids to pick up from day care or school, supper to prepare, cleaning to do and possibly more work related reading, e mails or other things to cram into our little window of ‘relaxation’ we have at night.

Stress is part of all of our lives. It tires us and usually leads to less activity, or certainly saps our desire to move more. If we would move, we wouldn’t take away the external stress, but we would reduce it and thereby reduce production of cortisol and likely even subdue the temptation for snacking. With limited time, what exercise can we do? In our office, one of my staff members closes her door at lunch, puts on shorts and a t-shirt, and does a 20 minute insanity workout at lower intensity so as not to sweat too much. Others go for a walk, no matter the weather. Myself, I will do some push-ups and squats and planks, in between catching up on paper work. The purpose is to force ourselves to use time wisely, because it is limited.

In the evening, we need to turn off the TV or get away from our computers, at least for a short time. We need to move. Most people I meet have equipment in their house, but it’s rarely used. It’s not hard to find 20 or 30 minutes where we could ride a stationary bike, or walk on a treadmill, or do some light weights. Why? To alleviate the stress from the day. I’ve never been under the illusion that watching TV truly helps stress reduction. It feels like a mental escape yet our muscles are crying out for movement.

Often it’s not the food or lack of food that is impeding our ability to lose weight. It’s the fact we are mainly inert most of the day and are tired from dealing with all the things we have to deal with throughout the day, and then not doing any kind of movement.

So the little things I’m talking about, are the things that reduce stress yet at the same time speed up our metabolism. Movement. Any kind of movement. During the morning, at lunch, after work, in the evening. Something. Preferably lots of little movements. 5 minutes spread out 4 to 6 times per day is a 30 minute workout. This may even be more effective than walking the dog for 30 minutes. Why? Stress reduction. It’s not always about the food. If I could reduce stress, or the stress response, people would more easily lose weight.

Look at all aspects of your life. Sleep, stress, exercise, social interactions; not just the food. If you might improve any of these, or all of these, weight loss might become easier.

You can do it. It’s a long journey but it can be a very successful one, if you never give up trying.

Dr. Doug

**** If you want to understand better the impact of movement on neuropeptides in the brain, read ‘Spark’ by Dr. John Ratey, a psychiatrist at Harvard.