Finding HappinessPosted: Mar 21 in Health And Wellness by Dr. Lazarus
As Spring has now sprung, I can’t tell you how many patients tell me the same thing: “If I could just lose some weight, I would be so much happier!”
Well, unfortunately I think this opens a larger can of worms and leads to a bit of a chicken vs. egg argument. Believing that weight loss alone will lead to happiness ignores the realities of the disease of obesity. Many people gain weight because they are unhappy. When we have too much stress, not enough sleep, we are tired all the time, we have other medical problems or conditions causing chronic pain, the body is tricked into thinking that it constantly needs to replenish.
Acute vs. Chronic Stress
The difference between acute stress (brain) and chronic stress (adrenal glands) is that faced with an acute stress, the appetite disappears. The brain sends blood away from the stomach to our muscles so that we can escape from danger (i.e., a bear). Chronic stress (work stress, relationship stress, etc.) is like having to run away from the bear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This activates cortisol from the adrenal glands, telling the body it needs to respond by replenishing. We get tired and hungry, and everything sounds good!
Think about it, after a stressful day at the office, do you get home craving a salad?
Similarly, people who are unhappy in their daily routine will tend to turn to food as a respite. If we take away the comfort foods the unhappy person has been turning to, the mood will go from bad to worse!
Instead of using weight loss as a tool to improve happiness, why not try a different approach? Why not try to find ways to be happier in your life so that you are not turning to comfort foods? Weight loss will then be the result of your improved mood!
A recent article in the Daily Star examined this very question. In this article, they looked at strategies recommended by Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and CEO of Apple. Jobs posed the following questions:
- “Am I living the life that I want and doing the work that I want to do?”
- “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
- “Am I doing what I love?”
If your answers to these questions is “No,” instead of focusing on weight loss to improve your quality of life, you might want to consider improving the quality of your life to promote weight loss! If you are in a job you hate, is there another that might be a better fit? Are you achieving what you want to achieve? If not now, when? Do you love your work? Relationships? Hobbies?
By addressing these and other areas of your life, you can make real changes that will not only help you succeed with weight loss, but will improve your overall happiness and your quality of life. After all, isn’t that what we’re after?